THE DAY REPLAYED – Sunday 14 August was undoubtedly the day substitutes took centre stage at Colombia 2011, with Alexandre Lacazette, Maduabuchi Ejike, Dudu and Alvaro Vazquez all coming off the bench to score vital goals for their respective teams.
It was also a day on which France made history by reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the very first time, having overcome Nigeria 3-2 after a frenetic extra-time period featuring three goals. Subs on both sides were hugely influential, with four goals and three assists all supplied by players who did not start the match. The additional 30-minute period appears not to suit the Flying Eagles who, at the same stage of this competition at Canada 2007, conceded four goals in extra time of their tie with Chile.
French forward Lacazette, for his part, briefly claimed a share of top spot in the scorers’ charts after taking his individual tally to four goals, only for Spanish supersub Vazquez to move clear on five strikes via his 102nd-minute equaliser against Brazil in Pereira. Spain and Brazil’s sixth meeting at this competition was every bit a clásico, featuring no fewer than 43 shots at goal: the second-highest total for any match here at Colombia 2011 so far. Needing a penalty shoot-out to separate the two sides, it was A Seleção who won 4-2 on spot-kicks to avenge their extra-time defeat by La Rojita at the Round of 16 stage of Canada 2007 – Brazil’s earliest ever exit from the finals of a FIFA U-20 World Cup.
It must also be worth noting that three of the four quarter-finals at Colombia 2011 went to extra time, which has been the case at this phase of the competition at every edition of the global U-20 showpiece since Netherlands 2005.
France 3-2 Nigeria
Brazil 2-2 Spain (Brazil win 4-2 on penalties)
Goal of the day
France-Nigeria, Gueida Fofana (102')
In the thick of a topsy-turvy extra-time period, France grabbed control of proceedings via their captain courageous Gueida Fofana. Latching on to a chipped pass from Clement Grenier some 25 metres out, the Le Havre man plucked the ball out of the air with one touch before sending a sublime half-volley dipping over the head of Dami Paul and into the back of the net.
Firepower in reserve: The match between Nigeria and France turned into a veritable duel between the sides’ subs, with Les Bleuets’ hero Lacazette scoring his third and fourth goals of the competition despite starting all five of his side’s matches on the bench. For the Flying Eagles, Ejike made a spectacular impact in his first appearance of the tournament. Joining the fray two minutes into injury time with his side 1-0 down, Ejike found the net within a minute with a neat header from fellow sub Uche Nwofor’s pass, thus scoring the quickest goal by a substitute at Colombia 2011 and taking the match into extra time. Ejike later fired his second of the game after the shot of yet another bench-warmer, Sani Emmanuel, had come back off the woodwork. Intriguingly, the latter scored five times at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, all of which came after joining the action as a substitute.
Practice makes perfect: The Brazil set-up have learned the lessons of the senior side’s quarter-final exit against Paraguay at this summer’s Copa America, when they missed all four spot-kicks in a disastrous penalty shoot-out. The U-20s, for their part, have been working assiduously on the exercise and their dedication paid dividends when scoring with all four attempts against Spain. “I practice as much as I can with Santos and with A Seleção, because it can prove decisive,” said key man Danilo, scorer of his side’s second spot-kick.
Fair Play to the fore: The usual pre-game Fair Play speech by the respective captains appears to have had an inspirational impact on Spain and Brazil, who put on a superb spectacle in torrential rain in Pereira. Indeed, when the whistle blew for half-time there had been a total of 18 shots at goal and just six fouls awarded.
Nigerians winning admirers: Over in Cali, the fans got behind Nigeria for their entire match against France, awarding the Flying Eagles with a standing ovation after the game despite their dramatic defeat. The local fans even gathered to applaud the African squad when boarding their team coach afterwards. Clearly adopted by the public, did the cowboy hat sported by coach John Obuh have anything to do with their popularity?
2000 – Spain striker Rodrigo’s superb diving header against Brazil was the 2000th goal in FIFA U-20 World Cup history. Ironically, Rodri was born in Brazil while landmark strikes appear to be his speciality – he fired the competition’s 1900th goal in the group-stage game against Costa Rica.
In 17 August’s semi-finals, France meet Portugal in Medellin while Mexico take on Brazil in Pereira.