THE DAY REPLAYED - Argentina and Nigeria will contest the final of the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005 after successfully coming through tense semi-finals in Utrecht and Kerkrade with wins over Brazil and Morocco respectively.
The Argentines stand on the threshold of history, having reached four out of the last six finals and if they manage to beat Nigeria on Saturday, they will record their fifth championship success - one more than the team they just love to beat… Brazil.
Brazil made the brighter start at the Galgenwaard Stadium in Utrecht, immediately going after their South American rivals, but it was Argentina who drew first blood as they went ahead in the seventh minute thanks to their newfound scoring sensation Lionel Messi.
Messi relieved the pressure Argentina found themselves under in the early minutes in the best possible way, cracking a fierce and curling left-footed drive past Renan for his fourth goal at the FIFA World Youth Championship, adding to the goal he claimed against Spain in the quarter-finals (0:1, 7').
Brazil were clearly stunned to concede so early and just when they looked full of promise, but Argentina settled down well after going in front, allowing Brazil as much of the possession as they wanted until they reached the final third of the pitch before breaking up the play and launching counter-attacks.
Barcelona's Messi and Neri Cardozo were at the heart of Argentina's more threatening moments going forward and they were both involved as Brazil were sliced open once more, though the Brazilians were relieved to see an offside flag raised when Cardozo fired Gustavo Oberman's cross into the roof of the net from close range.
Rafael proved to be one of the more lively figures for Brazil with his surging runs down the right, but for all their clever tricks and intricate passing moves, the defending champions offered precious little in the way of attacking menace, particularly in the second half when Argentina's containment policy appeared to be proving particularly effective and more offensively-minded.
All that changed in the 75th minute when the equaliser arrived as Renato flicked in a header with his back to goal, using the pace of an in-swinging free-kick by Fabio Santos to guide the ball through a crowded penalty area past Oscar Ustari (1:1, 75').
With the clock running down and the referee playing four minutes of stoppage time, Argentina got the winner and, once again, Messi was instrumental. His pace caused Brazil problems all afternoon and when they failed to deal with his cross from the left, Argentine skipper Pablo Zabaleta forced the ball home, though his shot benefited from a huge deflection which left Renan helpless (1:2, 93').
Moroccan invasion grips Kerkrade
Though the second semi-final lacked some of the tactical machinations of Utrecht, the atmosphere in Kerkrade was amazing to behold as the large Moroccan contingent turned this quiet corner of the deep south of the Netherlands into something more closely resembling their homeland.
For all their noise though, Morocco's fans could not inspire their heroes to greatness in the all-African semi-final against Nigeria as the conquerors of tournament hosts Holland proved worthy winners.
Nigeria were the better team throughout and it came as little surprise when they took the lead after half an hour courtesy of a thundering and completely unstoppable left-foot drive by Taye Taiwo which beat Mohammed Bourkadi all ends up (0:1, 34').
Morocco rarely looked like getting back into things and they gradually descended into indiscipline as the match wore on, notably after defeat became inevitable towards the closing stages. Nigeria twice hit the crossbar through Dele Adeleye and Olubayo Adefemi in quick succession before Adefemi doubled the lead with a powerful downward header from John Obi Mikel's corner (0:2, 70').
Chinedu Ogbuke put the result beyond doubt - though it was rarely in question - when he nodded in the third after Bourkadi could only parry Promise Isaac's shot into his path (0:3, 75').
Morocco made a bad-tempered exit as their supporters showed their anger and frustration before Mouhssine Iajour was sent off for wildy lashing out with his feet and then spitting towards Isaac as he was making his exit from the pitch.
Rida Doulyazal followed him into the dressing room early for a rash challenge as he was also sent off and Morocco finished the match with nine men.