THE DAY REPLAYED - Four continental champions were in action on Saturday as the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 came to a tense conclusion, with extra-time being needed in both games.
Joining Ghana and Hungary in the last four are Brazil, who were indebted to one of their substitutes as they came from behind to beat Germany, and Costa Rica, who were largely outplayed by UAE but snatched a late winner after also conceding first.
Dominated for long periods by the Asian champions, Los Ticos had no option but to make the most of the few chances that came their way. One of their rare openings came eight minutes before half-time, when Bryan Oviedo found some space on the right and swung a menacing cross into the box, where Deportivo Saprissa striker Josue Martinez was waiting to head the ball powerfully into the back of the net.
An exciting double-bill: While the showdown between Brazil and Germany was the main attraction at the Cairo International Stadium, the local fans filing into the ground before the game had their minds somewhere else. And not without good reason. Hundreds of miles away, in the Zambian city of Chililabombwe, Hassan Shehata's Egypt were taking on the Copper Bullets in a vital qualifier for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Thanks to the big screens at the stadium, however, the fans did not miss any of the action, and when Hosny Abdrabo scored the crucial winner for the Pharaohs, they greeted the goal as if it had been scored on the pitch in front of them.
Maicon saves the day: Completely out of sorts against a well-organised Germany side, Brazil looked to be heading out of the tournament when they fell behind to Lewis Holtby's second-half header. Fortunately for Rogerio Lourenco's men, the Fluminense striker stood tall just when his team needed him, pulling the Brazilians level with just two minutes remaining and then hitting what turned out to be the winner just a minute into extra time.
Sing your hearts out: Though some 3,000 kilometres separate Cairo from Abu Dhabi, that did not stop UAE from feeling right at home when they took on the Costa Ricans. Urging the Asian side on was a sizeable contingent of fans, beautifully orchestrated by one vociferous gent on a megaphone and another inviting the assembled throng to clap their hands in support of Mahdi Redha's men. Unfortunately for the Emiratis, the efforts of their brand new fan club proved in vain.
The right spirit: On the second of FIFA's Fair Play days UAE's Mohamed Ahmed and Costa Rica's Ivan Bebek were at the centre of an incident that showed just how the game should be played. After making a clean tackle on the Tico forward in his own box, Ahmed cheekily appealed for a goal-kick only to see the smiling referee indicate a corner. Realising the error of his ways, the grinning Emirati defender walked over to the official and clapped his hands as if to ask for forgiveness.
3 - The number of continental champions in the last four at Egypt 2009: Ghana, Brazil and Costa Rica won the African, South American and CONCACAF championships respectively, while Hungary were knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2008 UEFA European Under-19 Championship. This is the third time that three continental title holders have reached this stage of the competition, the other two occasions being 1977 (USSR, Mexico, Uruguay) and 1991 (Brazil, USSR, Australia).
"First, congratulations to Costa Rica. You deserved to win and good luck against Brazil. About my team, I want to say: 'keep your heads up.' You have showed a great lesson to the world." loommool (United Arab Emirates)
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