THE DAY REPLAYED – Though it would have taken a veritable deluge to douse Colombia’s ardour for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2011, it still came as a relief to everyone involved when the heavy rain eased off enough to allow the competition’s first four games to be played. In the event, goals were at a premium on a matchday featuring three draws and eye-catching opening performances from Erik Lamela and Luis Mejia.
Goal of the day
Argentina-Mexico, Erik Lamela 70’
Showing elegance and persistence in equal measure, the gifted Argentinian controlled the ball in midfield, shook off the attentions of the Mexican backline and struck the tournament’s first goal with a crisp, low shot across the keeper. The classy strike was enough to give La Albiceleste their 50th victory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and extend their unbeaten record at the competition to 14 matches, just four short of Brazil’s 18-game record set between 1989 and 1995.
Party atmosphere in the stands
In the absence of goals, arguably the biggest highlight of England-Korea DPR was the action in the stands in Medellin. With the fiesta vibe having well and truly kicked in thanks to the start of another eagerly anticipated city-wide event, la Feria de las Flores (the Flower Fair), supporters attended the match en masse and showed their enthusiasm with a string of Mexican waves. And when the sun finally put in an appearance after the interval, it seemed a fitting reward for the fans’ admirable fervour.
Mejia wins double duel
Without taking anything away from Panama keeper Luis Mejia’s heroics between the sticks, Austria’s Robert Zulj will surely feel he should have done better with two golden opportunities that came his way in the first half. Unmarked just outside the six-yard box and with much of the goal at his mercy, the striker first struck the ball low into the keeper’s body before failing to connect properly with the rebound and allowing the custodian to block for a second time with his feet. Playing his fourth FIFA U-20 World Cup game, Mejia certainly made his experience count.
¿Déjà-vu for La Albiceleste?
Though the fact that FC Porto starlet Juan Iturbe, dubbed by many as ‘The New Messi’, started on the bench for Argentina’s opener came as a shock to observers, it is not without precedent. Indeed, at Netherlands 2005 Lionel Messi himself was only a substitute in La Albiceleste’s first game against USA but, like Iturbe did against Mexico here at Colombia 2011, he showed flashes of his huge talent after coming on in the second period. Argentinian fans will be hoping the parallels continue for the remainder of the competition, given La Pulga went on to win the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot in his country’s triumph on Dutch soil six years ago.
Yellow fever in Barranquilla
Brazil and Egypt served up the day’s most exciting encounter, which came on the back of a colourful opening ceremony in front of a largely yellow-bedecked crowd. And the theme did not stop there. Not only were A Seleção wearing their famous yellow jerseys, but there were six yellow cards in a game which swung from end-to-end and featured a total of 34 fouls - an average of one every 2.5 minutes.
11 – The number of games England have gone since tasting victory at the finals of a FIFA U-20 World Cup. Their last success came on 23 June 1997 in Malaysia, when beating Mexico courtesy of a Michael Owen strike.
Hosts Colombia kick off their campaign on Saturday 30 July when they meet fellow Group A outfit France in Bogota, while in the same section Mali take on Korea Republic. Over in Group B in Cali, Cameroon play New Zealand prior to Portugal’s clash with Uruguay.