THE DAY REPLAYED - With Spain and China already safely through to the next round of the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005, two crucial matches in Utrecht and Doetinchem caught the eye on 17 June. Chile faced Morocco in the Group C showdown while Turkey came up against Ukraine in Group B, as four teams competed for just two automatic berths in the last 16. Ultimately it was Ukraine and Morocco who came away smiling, while their opponents will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if they go through as one of the best four third-placed sides. And that could come down to the minutest of details.
Chile and Morocco wasted no time in getting stuck into their high-stakes encounter in Utrecht. The Moroccans went into the match knowing a draw would cement them in second place thanks to a superior goal difference, but they had no intention of grinding out a stalemate and made their situation even more comfortable right after the break. Fittingly, it was their best player on the day, Tarik Bendamou, who broke the deadlock, sending in a sublime effort from 20 metres that Chilean goalkeeper José Rosales will feel he should have coped better with. The lead was no more than the Atlas Lions deserved, however, with their impressive energy levels seemingly fuelled by the sympathetic local crowd.
Despite the brave efforts of Nicolas Canales and Co, Jamal Fathi's charges held on to finally register their first ever win over a South American side in a FIFA World Youth Championship. That lifted a longstanding curse that had plagued Morocco in three appearances at the global event, but, more importantly, it guaranteed them a place in the Round of Sixteen. No such luxury for Chile, however, and they will have to pray that their total of three points is enough to earn them a ticket as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Nothing like as much was at stake in the other match in Group C, which pitted a Spanish side already through against a Honduran team in need of a minor miracle to save themselves from elimination. The more realistic objective for the CONCACAF representatives was to avoid another heavy defeat after shipping 12 goals in their first two fixtures.
Jona goalscorer, Jona goalkeeper
With that in mind, Jona's goal after just five minutes must have caused a few jitters among the Hondurans, especially when Silva netted his fourth strike of the tournament just before the break. Victor then buried goal number three, but, thankfully for Honduras, the damage ended there. In fact, the Spanish may even have entertained thoughts of conceding a goal - at the same stage of the competition in 1999, the Iberians saw off Honduras 3:1 before going on to lift the trophy. And we all know how important signs are in football!
The whole match was basically a stroll in the park for Spain, yet it was remarkable for one memorable incident. Spanish substitute goalkeeper Rocardo was sent on in the 76th minute to enjoy some trouble-free playing time, but he was making the opposite journey just three minutes later after provoking a penalty and picking up a red card. The Furia Roja suddenly found themselves in a tight spot, having made all three substitutions and without a shot-stopper on the pitch. To the rescue came Jona, who slipped on some gloves and promptly kept out the spot-kick to join what must be a small band of outfield players who have scored a goal and saved a penalty in the same match.
If it is any consolation for Honduras, they managed to avoid setting a new record for the number of goals conceded in three matches. That dubious honour still belongs to Indonesia, who leaked 16 strikes in 1979. Having picked the ball out of their net 15 times, though, the Catrachos certainly came close. At the other end of the scale, Spanish coach Inaki Saez took his excellent personal record to 14 wins, one draw and a mere two defeats, spread over three FIFA World U-17 Championships (1999, 2003 and 2005).
Over in Utrecht, the storyline was familiar - a game with little at stake between the already-safe Chinese and virtually-doomed Panama, and a nail-biting encounter between Ukraine and Turkey for the coveted second spot in the table. True to form, China disposed of their opponents with little fuss, even if the Canaleros did manage to draw level after Haibin Zhou had opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
Nine goals, nine goalscorers
Thereafter, though, it was one-way traffic, and the Chinese ran out comfortable 4:1 winners in the end. Eckhard Krautzun's boys have now scored nine goals, and each one has come from the foot or head of a different player. That stat speaks volumes of the collective strength of this Chinese side, who win the group and march into the knockout stage. Ironically, the Asians' best previous performance in this competition was back in 1985, when they reached the quarter-finals. Many of the current side were born that very same year, and they look set to at least equal their illustrious predecessors.
The most exciting match of the night came in Doetinchem where Turkey and Ukraine went head to head for a place in the last sixteen. The eastern Europeans only needed a point, while the Turks had to win to claim the second direct qualifying spot. Here too, the game got off to a flying start as Oleksandr Aliiev opened the scoring in the 5th minute, Sezer Ozturk equalised from the spot in the 8th minute and Alliev scored again in the 19th to restore the Ukrainian lead and join Llorente at the top of the goalscoring table (5).
Sergiy Silyuk was then sent off close to half time, and after the break Ozturk brought the Turks level. Mikhailichenko's charges had their backs to the wall, but defended heroically to the very end to hold on to their precious point. Ukraine go on to meet the second placed side in Group F, meaning a tough last sixteen clash with either Brazil, Nigeria, Switzerland or Korea Republic. Turkey, meanwhile, like Chile, face an anxious wait to see if they have done enough...