Underdogs enjoy their day
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED- The first two quarter-finals at Canada 2007 resulted in victories for the underdogs, with Austria overcoming the United States in rainy Toronto while the Czech Republic got the better of Spain beneath a beating sun in Edmonton.

The French may have been absent, but both results fitted in perfectly with the spirit of the Bastille Day parades happening halfway across the world.More than possibly any other day in the calendar year, 14 July inspires thoughts of ordinary people overcoming the odds, and the revolutionary spirit was alive and kicking as Austria found their way past the much-fancied Americans in their last-eight showdown.

With many surprised that they even made it this far, Paul Gludovatz's side pulled off a notable upset by once again employing the tactic that served them so well in the previous round: namely, bringing hungry forward Erwin 'Jimmy' Hoffer off the bench to fire in the winner late on. The Rapid Vienna supersub clearly knows where the goal is, and he made sure no one will forget his contribution by shaving his nickname into his hair before applying the winning touch.

As cameras clicked around the stadium, Hoffer sent Austria through to the semi-finals for the very first time and notched up the 1,700th goal in the history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the process.

There was at least one other record set in Toronto too, as the total crowd figure passed the million mark. In total, 1,008,53 people have attended games so far, at an average of 24,000 per match.

Slow start, searing heat
Austria's joy was America's disappointment, and the team that saw off both Brazil and Uruguay will surely harbour regrets as they reflect on a tournament many thought they could conquer. Not to make excuses, the rainy conditions without doubt suited the Europeans, who had secretly wished for the skies to open, and Thomas Rongen's men were also handicapped by fatigue after their exploits against the Celeste in the previous round.

Added to that, their chances of success were further diminished when they were reduced to ten men in extra time, but they leave Canada with their head held firmly high.In particular, striker Josmer Altidore finds himself in contention for the Bronze shoe after notching yet another effort to take his final tally to four.

Tiredness proved a factor in Edmonton as well, where the Czech Republic and Spain played out their quarter-final in searing heat. Both sides had been forced into extra-time in the Round of 16, with Miroslav Soukup's men obliged to earn their ticket in a penalty shoot-out, so it was perhaps unsurprising as the match got off to a tentative start.

In fact, the encounter only really exploded into life in the 102nd minute, when Spanish goalkeeper Adan committed a mistake from a corner, allowing Lubos Kalouda to rifle a thunderous shot into an empty goal.

The exhausted Spaniards tried their best to respond, and they did well to pull level when Juan Manuel Mata struck home following an initial attempt from Alberto Bueno. That sent the game to penalties, but the Czechs kept their composure to again earn their passage from the spot, meaning they will have to keep their heads shaved a little while longer as they prepare to take on their Austrian neighbours.

Their hairstyle choices may make light of the matter, but they have now gone down in history as the first side from the Czech Republic to reach the last four, and their semi-final contest with Austria will be a poignant occasion - especially for Austrian goalkeeper Bartolomej Kuru, whose father is Czech. Whoever wins, one of these sides will reach the final for the very first time, and although that may not constitute a football revolution, the beautiful game always appreciates new faces in showpiece occasions.