THE DAY REPLAYED - The first batch of last 16 knock-out games at the FIFA World Youth Championship proved to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Argentina and Japan overcame their respective rivals with golden goals, while the United States had their match in the bag before the first half was out. Canada fought right down to the wire and earned themselves a quarter-final slot. The day's victim, though, was Africa, which lost Egypt, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. Korea Republic also bade farewell to the Gulf.
Abu Dhabi: Japan 2 - 1 Korea Republic (Golden Goal); Burkina Faso 0 - 1 Canada
The evening air in Al Nahyan stadium vibrated to the rhythm of an unmissable grudge match between the two finalists at the Asian tournament in this category. The Taeguk Warriors, who had won that AFC U-20 Championship Final in Qatar, threatened a repeat performance to leave their neighbours empty-handed once more. However, it was to be the tenacity of Kiyoshi Okhuma's protégés, benefiting from the stroke of luck all teams need at this stage of the competition, that tipped the scales in Japan's favour.
Park Sun Wha's boys were the better side in normal time, when they went one up courtesy of Choi Sung Kuk (38'). However, in minute 73, Japan's goal hero Diasuke Sakata was to step into the arena and change the course of the game. The hugely-talented number 10 inspired his team mates and bagged two strikes (82' and 105'), one of them the all-important golden goal. The victory means more than just a place in the last eight to the young striker, it also makes him the championship's leading scorer.
Above and beyond the nail-biting result, spectators at today's match will long remember the passion and edge that both sides took into a heart-stopping finale of time added-on that made the first 90 minutes pale in comparison. Japan won in the end though and now lie in wait for the winners of the clash between Brazil and Slovakia. The Koreans, meanwhile, go home with an aching heart but their pride intact after giving it everything they had in an unforgettable encounter.
Burkina Faso and Canada were finding it hard to match the excitement of the previous game in a first 45 minutes marked by poor concentration and a dearth of attack-minded players. Ironically, the only goal the Africans shipped in the whole tournament was the one that sent them crashing out. Their executioner was Josh Simpson, who marked a beautiful goal with a well-directed strike from the corner of the box (60').
The Africans came close to snatching a last-minute equaliser when Ousseni Zongo fired in an amazing volley that forced the best out of the Canadian keeper. The parting shot of the tie must be the stark post-match contrast of the Burkina Faso boys crumpling to the ground in despair while the North Americans went wild. Canada go on to face the winners of Spain-Paraguay, while the Africans' first adventure at this tournament has come to a close.
Dubai: Argentina 2 - 1 Egypt (Golden Goal);
United States 2 – 0 Côte d'Ivoire
Dubai's Al Maktoum stadium played host to an incredible first clash between the reigning champions from South America, and Egypt, who were looking to better their third-place spot two years ago at Argentina 2001. The hero of the night was Argentinian Fernando Cavenaghi, who put in a captain's performance and notched up two goals (one of them the crucial golden goal) to show why he rules the roost among the freshly-qualified Albicelestes. But the African champions also showed what they were made of and there was never any hint we would witness a repeat of the 1-7 hiding received in the last edition of the tournament. With the game standing at 1-1 after normal time, thanks to a Cavenaghi free-kick (27') and a goal by Rida Metwaly (42'), the match moved into a fearsome spell of extra-time. Once there, the South Americans' greater experience made all the difference as they took advantage of Hassan Sehata's boys' retreat into their own half to deal the fatal blow. That man Cavenaghi again was quickest to the draw in the captains' duel with Sherif Ekramy and kept his side's hopes alive in this competition (110').
The South Americans stayed behind to celebrate with their fans and now face the United States. The Egyptians, given a standing ovation by their boisterous supporters in spite of defeat, will have to wait another two years to tread the boards of youth football's centre stage again.
or the second tie, the few people that had stayed behind in the stadium were to witness a frantic first 45 minutes between the United States and Côte d'Ivoire. The Africans launched an all-out attack from the kick-off and had excellent opportunities to go ahead, but all to no avail. It was to cost them dearly: Justin Mapp (7') and Ed Johnson, with the North Americans' third penalty in two games, settled the tie 2-0 for the CONCACAF young hopefuls (43'). Mama Ouattara's side saw themselves in even deeper trouble following Drissa Toure's red card at the end of the first half, when he handled outside his area. Toure was the second Ivory Coast keeper to be given his marching orders in the tournament after first choice keeper Daniel Yeboah took an early bath against Ireland.
After the break, it was Thomas Rongen's charges that dominated the ball and the match almost at will, dictating the pace of the game to a team that, though they dug deep, could not find the ideas or the legs to turn it around. The North Americans could even afford the luxury of stepping off the gas a little ahead of the tie with Argentina, who had to use a full tank to pip Egypt to the post. Côte d'Ivoire, another of Africa's three victims of the night, can march away with their heads held high.