A New World numbers game
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED - Sometimes statistics and scorelines tell big truths and sometimes they mutter outright lies. This dichotomy was on display in Montreal as Chile beat Nigeria 4-0 in what was, ironically, one of the tightest games of these finals. The numbers might also imply there is very little threat in 5 foot 3 inch Maxi Moralez of Argentina, but the little wizard conjured the lone goal that beat Mexico 1-0 in the late match.

The Nigerians - the lone African standard bearers - gave as good as they got for 90 scoreless minutes then another six in extra time, before Chilean supersub Jaime Grondona extricated himself from the net and wildly celebrated a scrambled goal. Only three minutes after that, the talented Africans collapsed completely. With the Nigerians reduced to ten after Suraq Sodiq committed a professional foul in the box, Mauricio Isla scored from the spot and then grabbed another four minutes later as the Nigerian warriors pressed forward in a desperate last-ditch attack. The cruellest twist came in the final minute of extra time when the excellent Mathias Vidangossy squeaked a fourth on the break.

The 4-0 scoreline did not accurately reflect the force of Nigeria's resistance, or the power of their attack, as they hit the post and created several good chances. It did, however, tell a truth about Chile's defensive assurance, attacking charisma and status as favourites to take the title. Coming into the game having conceded zero goals in four games, goalkeeper Christopher Toselli kept the streak alive by not conceding in five full games plus a 30-minute extra-time period (480 minutes) - five minutes short of a U-20 record that has stood since 1979. With 11 goals scored, the Chileans will not be ashamed of their attacking exploits either.

For Nigeria, who came into the game boasting the second-best defence at these finals, the official record will be deceiving interested parties long into the future. Their total of goals conceded spread to five (from one) in the space of 14 madcap and harmful minutes in Montreal.

One moment, many tears and cheers
Predictions and pre-match statistics went out the window when Argentina and Mexico met up in Ottawa later in the night. The Mexicans, with ten men from the U-17 side that achieved global glory in 2005 - and Argentina - the U-20 holders and five-time champions - were always going to play out a tense, tactical affair.

Carlos Vela of Mexico - top scorer from the U-17 finals in Peru in 2005 - was unable to open his Canada 2007 account as he struck the woodwork early in the first half to a groan from the pro-Mexican fans. And in keeping with the unreliability of numbers in this, our beautiful game, tiny Maxi Moralez - standing at just 160 centimetres, and far-and-away the smallest lad left at these finals, was the giant for Argentina. Picking up a poor pass out of the Mexican backline, the man they call 'the dwarf,' slipped past his man before thundering a deflected shot in behind Alfonso Blanco in the dying seconds of the first half.

As eight of their ten goals at these finals were scored in the second half, Mexico and their fans were hoping all the way up to the final whistle that the trend would stand up. Unfortunately for them, the numbers aren't always trustworthy as the game became the only quarter-final to finish in regular time.

One mistake decided the game, banished El Tri to elimination and no doubt produced innumerable tears back home in Mexico. The reverse was true for the Argentines as the nation's U-20 heroes gave a little consolation for the senior Albiceleste's 3-0 loss to Brazil in the Copa America Final earlier in the evening.

The Canada 2007 semi-finals:
Austria v Czech Republic, 18 July, Edmonton
Chile v Argentina, 19 July, Toronto