Hardly ever before has a FIFA World Youth Championship seen so many upsets like the 1999 issue. While European heavyweights England and Germany did not even make it past the group stage, defending champions Argentina, former winners Portugal and European champions Ireland were forced out in the round of 16. But all this was topped by the events on 18 April when Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil and Mexico were ousted.
Thousands of Malian celebrated throughout Sunday night in Bamaka following their team's 3-1 win over the Flying Eagles of Nigeria. Mali is now the only African team left in contention and will take on Spain in Kaduna on Wednesday. Also, several of its players are in line to win the adidas Golden Shoe, the trophy awarded to the best goalscorer. Spain, on the other, is presented with the chance of finally adding a world title to the association's tally.
Japan, another surprise package, have already beaten the US team, England, Portugal and Mexico. Coached by Frenchmen Philippe Troussier, formerly coach of various African teams and nicknamed the "white witch doctor", the Asian squad might be able to pull off another surprise against opponents Uruguay whom they meet in their semi-final in Lagos. Uruguay is about to repeat its 1997 feat when they qualified for the final which they lost to Argentina. The international experience of some of their players could prove vital in the battle for a place in the final.