Early joy for Nigeria and Japan
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED - Japan and Nigeria confirmed their places in the knockout rounds of Canada 2007, Uruguay squeezed past Jordan and Spain beat Zambia on a day when attendances smashed through the 400,000 barrier to make the FIFA U-20 World Championship the largest single-sport event in Canadian history after only 16 matches.

Japan's players danced a carefully-choreographed jig of delight in Victoria after making sure of a spot in the Round of 16 with their second successive Group F victory, this time a fortunate 1-0 win against Costa Rica at the Royal Athletic Park. Atomu Tanaka got the only goal in the 68th minute as he converted from close range after being set up by Tsukasa Umesaki and that was enough to guarantee their safe progress.

Costa Rica were guilty of several misses, especially in the 16th minute when Luis Perez fired wide from five metres out with only goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi to beat. The Ticos will face off with fellow pointless side Scotland on Saturday - both can technically go through but will need a win and a lot of help from other matches.

In the concluding part of the double header in Victoria between Nigeria and Scotland, the main action in the first half could be found in the tuneful grandstands, with the resident Nigerian band competing on relatively equal terms with a lone Scottish bagpiper in an interesting clash of styles.

Back on the pitch, Nigeria got the goal their dominance deserved in the 49th minute when Ezekiel Bala blasted home from ten yards and he added another to make it 2-0 after 78 minutes when Akeem Latifu's saved shot fell into his path. Nigeria's Efe Ambrose saw red eight minutes from time after being shown his second yellow card of the game, but the Africans were still celebrating a successful night's work.

Cavani winner
Over in Burnaby, Jordan goalkeeper Hamad Al Asmar was a lively figure as he stopped three Luis Suarez efforts in the first half, with one from a curling free-kick being a particularly unorthodox stop. Jordan then struck the post before Uruguay skipper Edinson Cavani claimed what proved to be the only goal of the game with a low shot five minutes before the break.

The second half started at a lacklustre pace until Jordan's Raed Fraeh brought things to life with a fierce drive which stung the palms of Uruguay's Mauro Goicoechea. Abdallah Salim then hit the crossbar with a free-kick as Uruguay looked rattled but the South Americans held on for a narrow victory which took them to four points and left their boisterous fans happily bouncing up and down in the sunshine near the halfway line.

In the later match at Swangard Stadium, Zambia's Clifford Mulenga caused Spain a few early problems with his pace and he went close with a shot from distance that just cleared the bar. However, Spain drew first blood when Mario Suarez earned and then converted a penalty in the 30th minute.

Juan Manuel Mata doubled the lead ten minutes later when he finished with a flourish into the roof of the net from a half-volley after a teasing left wing cross by Diego Capel. Zambia ensured an exciting finish when they pulled one back with 16 minutes remaining when William Njobvu tucked the ball under the body of Spain goalkeeper Adan, thrilling a noisy pro-Zambian crowd right to the finish as the Spaniards just about held on.

While Group B is still undecided, the success of Canada 2007 is already assured, with organisers now hoping to surpass the FIFA U-20 World Cup record of 1,155,160 cumulative spectators - a milestone that has stood for 24 years since the Mexico edition of 1983 - with more than 1,000,000 tickets already sold for this year's event.