Favourites get the job done
© AFP

THE DAY REPLAYED – The last four quarter-final places at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 were claimed on Wednesday, with no shocks occurring in the process. That said, it was a close-run thing for three of the four sides expected to advance.

The scorers of 12 goals in the group phase, Nigeria could only manage one in squeezing past England, who exited the tournament having failed to score a goal or win a game, extending their winless run in the FIFA U-20 World Cup to 14 matches (five draws and nine defeats).

Spain were taken all the way by Korea Republic, prevailing in a penalty shoot-out following the first goalless draw in the Round of 16 since the 24-team format was adopted at Malaysia 1997. The outcome provided La Rojita with a measure of revenge for the shoot-out exit suffered by the senior team against the South Koreans at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Japan/Korea™.

European champions France were also made to sweat more than expected by unfancied Ecuador, a solitary goal proving enough for them to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time in ten years and set up a meeting with the Nigerians.

Bucking the trend of the day, Brazil were the only one of the four favourites to advance in style, putting three second-half goals past Saudi Arabia without reply to move into the last eight for the 16th time.

Results
Round of 16
Nigeria 1-0 England
Spain 0-0 Korea Republic (aet, Spain win 7-6 on penalties)
Brazil 3-0 Saudi Arabia
France 1-0 Ecuador

Goal of the day
Brazil-Saudi Arabia, Henrique 46
With the scored locked at 0-0 at half-time, Brazil coach Ney Franco brought Willian on for Casemiro, a move that paid off instantly. With his very first touch, straight from the second-half kick-off, the Sao Paulo forward expertly backheeled the ball into the path of Henrique, who surged forward to slot the ball past Saudi keeper Abdullah Alsdairy.

Memorable moments
Shades of 2002: Populating the stands at the Palogrande in Manizales on Wednesday were a knot of Korea Republic supporters, who unfurled a banner written in perfect Spanish. “La historia de 2002 se repetirá” (The story of 2002 will repeat itself), it confidently announced, in reference to the Taeguk Warriors’ FIFA World Cup shoot-out win over Spain nine years ago. The South Korean faithful also sported red T-shirts bearing the legend “Be the reds”, a garment made famous by the home fans at those world finals.

The story did not quite repeat itself, however, with the Spanish holding their nerve from the spot this time. Grateful for the support nevertheless, the Korea Republic players congregated in the centre-circle and applauded the predominantly Spain-supporting crowd, who sportingly rewarded the gesture with a standing ovation.

If the hat fits ... : Nigeria are feeling right at home in Colombia, having won all four of their games at the competition, a first for the Flying Eagles. As a mark of gratitude for the hospitality shown towards them, coach John Obuh has even taken to wearing a natty Colombian hat. “It’s my way of saying thank you for the support the people of Colombia have given us,” the trendsetting coach later explained. “I hope to keep on wearing it right through to the end of the tournament.”

Henrique takes one for the team: Brazil striker Henrique’s fearless approach to the game caused him no little pain on Wednesday evening. Colliding with an opponent as he bore down on goal after an hour of his side’s match with Saudi Arabia, the Sao Paulo striker had to be taken off in tears, clutching his injured arm. He emerged from the tunnel sporting a sling a few minutes later, arriving on the bench just in time to see Brazil’s second goal of the night.

The stat
16 - The number of times Brazil have reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 17 attempts, with the South Americans going on to win the competition on four occasions (in 1983, 1985, 1993 and 2003) and finish runners-up three times. In doing so they have recorded 92 wins and scored 209 goals, more than any other team in the history of the competition.

The quarter-final line-up
Saturday 13 August
Mexico-Colombia
Portugal-Argentina

Sunday 14 August
Brazil-Spain
France-Nigeria