THE DAY REPLAYED – The final day of group action at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 featured the full gambit of footballing emotions and, now that the competition’s first 36 matches are done and dusted, the full line-up for the Round of 16 has been confirmed.
The matchday included further success for Spain and Nigeria, who made in three wins from three in Groups C and D respectively, while Guatemala bounced back from two emphatic opening defeats to beat Croatia and seal a surprise spot in the last 16. It was also a good day for CONMEBOL, with Ecuador’s win over Costa Rica - who also progressed - putting four of the region’s representatives in the first round of the knockout stages for the sixth FIFA U-20 World Cup in a row.
Goal of the day
Croatia-Guatemala, Marvin Ceballos 81’
Guatemala’s first ever goal in the history of the competition could scarcely have come at a better time. Comunicaciones striker Ceb allos gambled on a long clearance from keeper Roberto Padilla and, when the Croatian backline failed to clear, got beyond the last defender to knock the ball first-time right-footed into the net for the winner. The Guatemalans thus become the first team to qualify for the knockout stages of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with a goal difference of -10.
Alex makes his bow
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui knows full well how it feels to sit out games on the bench, having been La Rojita’s reserve keeper for all his side’s matches at the USSR 1985 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Perhaps that was partly why the supremo decided to bring on third-choice custodian Alex for Fernando Pacheco at half-time against Australia. “If something happens to Pacheco in the Round of 16, if he gets a red card for example, it’s better if Alex is ready and has had some match time,” said the coach to FIFA.com. Zaragoza man Alex pulled off three fine saves to repay his coach’s faith and soften the blow of the ruling out through injury of Aitor, between the sticks for Spain’s opener against Costa Rica.
Quick off the mark
Another young Spanish starlet, Alvaro Vazquez, has proved here at Colombia 2011 that he needs very little time to make an impact. Scorer of his side’s second against Ecuador within 14 minutes of coming off the bench, against the Aussies in his first start of the competition the striker struck three goals in a devastating 12-minute burst. It was the third-fastest hat-trick in FIFA U-20 World Cup history behind his countryman Adrian Lopez (nine minutes, Canada 2007) and the Brazilian Adailton (five minutes, Malaysia 1997). In the process, Vazquez also shot to the top of the tournament's scorers’ charts.
Worth the pain
So thrilled was Guatemala’s goalscoring hero Ceballos with his decisive late strike, and so exuberant were his celebrations, the forward needed treatment after taking a knock to the head. His subsequent return to the fray, featuring a tear-stained face and a heavily bandaged forehead, added even more drama to Los Guatemaltecos’ shock progress to the next round.
Who dares wins
In his determination to avoid a Round of 16 meeting with South American superpowers Brazil, Nigeria coach John Obuh sent out a side featuring two attacking midfielders and a four-man frontline of Omoh Ojabu, Abdul Ajagun, Uche Nwofor and Ahmed Musa against Saudi Arabia. His daring was rewarded by Musa grabbing the opening goal, while Ojabu’s replacement Olarenwaju Kayode scored the second in a 2-0 success.
58 – The number of seconds Spain’s Sergi Roberto required to score against Australia in the fastest goal of Colombia 2011 thus far. His pinpoint right-foot strike also went down as the sixth fastest in FIFA U-20 World Cup history.