THE DAY REPLAYED - Group B was the first section to close here at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE, with Uruguay sealing top spot with a slim win over Italy, who also push through in second-place. Côte d'Ivoire, who finished two points behind the Italians on four after knocking New Zealand out, are guaranteed a place in the knockouts now too as one of the top third-place finishers.
There was all sorts of drama over in Group A, where Brazil’s 3-0 win over Honduras was enough to put both sides through. One more goal for A Seleção, however, would have seen Slovakia sneak through instead of the Catrachos. Now, though, the Europeans will have to wait and see what is meant to be. UAE can wait all they like, but they join New Zealand as the first teams in these finals to pack their bags as both finished with zero points from their games.
Group A - Abu Dhabi/Ras Al Khaimah
Honduras 0-3 Brazil
Slovakia 2-0 United Arab Emirates
Group B - Abu Dhabi/Ras Al Khaimah
New Zealand 0-3 Côte d'Ivoire
Italy 1-2 Uruguay
Bregonis’ brighter tomorrow, today
Joel Bregonis cut a forlorn figure in the 17th minute of Uruguay’s second game against Côte d'Ivoire. Trying to clear away Aboubakar Keita’s shot, he only managed to lift the ball up in the air, over his goalkeeper and into the net. He got an earful from custodian Thiago Cardozo about it too, as if he needed his mistake pointed out. But as English legend of 1966 Geoff Hurst once famously said, “football is a game of tomorrows.” Bregonis made the most of his metaphorical tomorrow against Italy today, scoring – this time in the right goal – with a thundering header in a 2-1 result that saw Uruguay, runners-up two years ago in Mexico, through to the Round of 16 in UAE.
UAE will, UAE will rock you!
Despite their team being beaten three times in three games at the U-17 World Cup, the Emirate fans never gave up on their boys. In addition to incessant cheering and chanting at the Mohammad Bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi, a pocket of local fans broke into an Arabic version of the chorus from Queen’s We Will Rock You. It didn’t quite intimidate the Slovaks, however, as they put two past the hosts in a strong performance. Neither side will be singing We are the Champions, in Slovak or Arabic, as UAE are out and Slovakia face a nervous wait to know their fate.
Dream debut for Bakayoko
After sitting out Côte d'Ivoire’s first two matches, Moussa Bakayoko must have been shocked to see his name in the starting XI. If he had any nerves ahead of his first start of the finals, he certainly hid them well, scoring twice against New Zealand to help his side through to the knockout stages. For an Elephants team who weren’t exactly prolific in their first matches – they scored only one goal each in their first two games – the USC Bassam striker might have just earned himself a full-time spot for the west Africans as they move forward in the competition.
Twist and shout for crocked Abner
Brazil’s left-back was looking like one of the true stars of the finals, but a serious injury might have ended the Coritiba man’s time here in UAE. Chasing a ball over the goal-line, he got tangled up with a Honduran player and fell to the ground, his knee crumpling awkwardly beneath him. There was pure fear in his eyes as he called to the bench for a substitute. After some quick treatment he tried to put weight on the joint, but it wouldn’t support him, and he had to be stretchered off. Adding insult to injury, Abner was replaced by Léo Pereira, who plays for Coritiba’s club arch-rivals Atlético Paranaense. In a good sign for the South Americans, though, Abner returned to the bench later in the game with ice on his knee and limping, but without crutches.
19 – The number of minutes into New Zealand’s game against Côte d'Ivoire that the Kiwis set a new, and unwanted, U-17 World Cup record. The Oceania side broke a record set by Mali, who previously went 471 minutes without scoring. New Zealand now own the dubious distinction, which will take some breaking, at 543 consecutive minutes of goalless football. No wonder Kiwi coach Darren Bazely was looking at his watch and shaking his head around the quarter-hour mark. “It’s a shame.” he said after the game. “but we did create some chances.”
“At this level it’s the small details that are important, and my players didn't understand this at the start of the tournament. Now, though, they get it. We are here to learn and to make progress in the development of the players, so they can reach a higher level and compete with the best teams. They can learn a lot in this competition.” Côte d'Ivoire coach Ibrahima Kamara’s team has gotten better with every game here at UAE 2013, and they will hope to keep doing so.
Uzbekistan-Croatia (Fujairah, 20:00)
Morocco-Panama (Sharjah 20:00)
Venezuela-Russia (Fujairah, 17:00)
Japan-Tunisia (Sharjah, 17:00)