THE DAY REPLAYED - There is no denying that goals were in short supply over the first couple of days of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011. Matchday 3 helped raise the goal average, however, with Nigeria putting five past Guatemala and Spain inflicting a heavy defeat on Costa Rica.
It had been a slow start to the competition for the CONCACAF contingent, with three defeats, ten goals conceded and not a single goal scored. Guatemala will certainly not forget their opening match in a hurry, after they conceded five against the Flying Eagles. The region did enjoy one bright moment, though, with Costa Rica’s John Ruiz’s becoming Colombia 2011's youngest scorer at 17 years and 193 days.
Africa’s representatives had not fared much better, with Mali losing to Korea Republic, Cameroon drawing with New Zealand, and Egypt finishing all square with Brazil. That was until Nigeria entered the fray with their emphatic victory over the Guatemalans. Forward Edafe Egbedi, currently without a club, scored a brace to go top of the scoring chart alongside Rodrigo and Luis Muriel. Saudi Arabia, however, were the protagonists of the day’s biggest story, beating Croatia to record their first victory in the competition after a winless streak stretching back 22 years.
Nigeria 5-0 Guatemala
Croatia 0-2 Saudi Arabia
The emphatic scoreline may suggest otherwise, but Spain were made to work hard for their win against Costa Rica. La Roja did enjoy some breathing space along the way, however, thanks to a wonderful goal from midfielder Koke. Isco’s long ball in from the left was intelligently headed on by Alvaro Vazquez, before Koke side-footed home a perfectly placed shot.
Rodrigo’s family affair
The loss of Sergio Canales to injury before the tournament was a real cause for concern for Spain. Everyone, that is, except Rodrigo, who had the task of filling the influential midfielder’s boots. With two goals and a strong performance against Costa Rica, the Brazilian-born forward proved he is not in Colombia just to make up numbers. He was cheered on by his Brazilian grandmother, who watched from the stands draped in a Spanish flag. “I’m very excited,” she told Colombian TV after the match. “I can’t explain how I felt watching my grandson score.”
No hands for Paul
Even Nigerian goalkeeper Dami Paul was keen to get in on the act during the Flying Eagles’ impressive attacking display against Guatemala. The keeper left his area to collect the ball in the 66th minute and, under pressure from two opponents, managed to clear the danger. It was a move that encapsulated his side’s confident performance and the style with which they achieved the result. It was also a daring piece of skill that delighted the crowd in Armenia, although coach John Obuh may not have been quite so impressed.
AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE
In the 24th minute, the Australian fans in the stands in Manizales were momentarily silenced as Ecuador scored. It is never quiet for long when Socceroo fans are around, though, and as one supporter led with a cry of “Aussie Aussi Aussi”, the rest came back with a reply of “Oi, Oi, Oi!” It certainly amused the Colombian crowd, who showed their appreciation for the travelling fans with a round of applause. The support was not wasted, as Australia equalised two minutes from time with a superb free-kick from Tommy Oar.
Saudis end win drought:
Saudi Arabia had not won a single FIFA U-20 World Cup match in nine outings (going back to 1989) before matchday three of this year’s tournament. That winless streak is now over, thanks to an excellent victory over Croatia. It was the first defeat the eastern Europeans had suffered at the hands of a team from the Asian zone at any level. Croatia can take heart from the fact that last time the Saudis won, their opponents, Portugal, went on to win the competition.
1,990 – The number of goals scored in the FIFA U-20 World Cup since the inaugural edition back in 1977. Spain’s Rodrigo is the goalscorer whose name will go down in the competition’s history books.
The first day of August marks the start of the second round of group matches. In Barranquilla, Egypt take on Panama while Brazil face Austria. Mexico are up against Korea DPR in Medellin, along with Argentina and England, who resume their rivalry in the final match of the day.