THE DAY REPLAYED – The line-up for the Round of 16 at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 is slowly but surely taking shape. In the final round of Group C matches, no fewer than three teams sealed their places in the knockout stages. Morocco made certain of top spot in the section with victory over Panama, who finish last and definitely pack for home. Uzbekistan beat Croatia and now go through to the next round as runners-up in the section, leaving the third-place Croats to sweat on results in Groups E and F. Elsewhere, Slovakia’s Group A victory the previous evening became doubly valuable as a result of Croatia’s defeat, as the Slovaks will now definitely make the next round as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Group D front-runners Japan and Tunisia had already sealed places in the Round of 16 with a game to spare. In the head-to-head to determine the group winners, the Japanese struck twice late on to claim the honours. Behind them, Russia kept alive their hopes of progressing to the next stage with a convincing victory over Venezuela, although the European champions face a nail-biting wait to see whether they will end up as one of the best third-place finishers. By contrast, the tournament has been a bitter disappointment for the South Americans after defeat in all three of their fixtures.
Starlets respond to tasty incentive
The Japan players may be far from home, but they are set to enjoy the comfort of familiar food and drink. “As an additional motivating factor for my players, I’ve promised them a Japanese meal including sushi if we win the group,” Japan coach Hirofumi Yoshitake revealed to FIFA.com in the build-up to the meeting with Tunisia. Yoshitake was grinning when he made the pledge, but the prospect of a slap-up dinner clearly lifted his team, as they dug deep and turned the result on its ear with two late goals. We say: enjoy your meal!
Odd goal brings hits mark
Daisuke Sakai’s goal to level the scores for Japan was not only strange in itself, but noteworthy in a statistical sense too. The half-time substitute knew little about Rached Arfaoui’s attempted clearance when it struck his leg and trickled over the line off the inside of a post. As it happened, it was also the 100th goal at the tournament. With a round of matches in two of the groups still to come, no fewer than 110 goals have already gone in at this FIFA U-17 World Cup. There is a realistic prospect of the current record of 165 goals at the 2007 edition in Korea 2007 being beaten in UAE.
Consolation prize for Panama
Panama are out of the tournament with no points from their three matches, but the Central Americans will at least go home with a minor consolation. They failed to score in losing their first two games, but Werner Wald drilled home the first goal of the game against Morocco, prompting riotous celebrations among Jorge Dely Valdes’ team, almost as if they had laid hands on the trophy. Despite the North Africans netting four times themselves, Ervin Zorrilla put away another for Panama before the end, leaving New Zealand as the only goalless team at UAE 2013.
21 – Japan supremo Yoshitake clearly has unshakeable faith in all his players, shown by the fact that he has now fielded all 21 of his squad in the course of three group matches, including all three goalkeepers. Given the team’s success as group winners, this unusually thorough squad rotation looks fully justified.
"The defensive tactics I want from my players are very demanding. It’s a combination of zonal and man-to-man marking. They did it very well in today’s game but it’s an energy-sapping form of defending, which is why my lads were tired at the end and we lost in the closing stages,” Tunisia coach Abdelhay Ben Soltane
Argentina-Canada (Dubai, 20:00)
Austria-Iran (Al Ain, 20:00)
Nigeria-Iraq (Dubai, 17:00)
Sweden-Mexico (Al Ain, 17:00)