THE DAY REPLAYED – Spellbinding is perhaps the only word fit to describe the third day of action at UAE 2013. The latest instalment of games in the FIFA U-17 World Cup was high on drama, sublime moments and superb goals, with Nigeria at the forefront as they ensured a miserable start for holders Mexico.
The other match in Group F also served up a glut of goals, and it was Sweden who emerged victorious in the duel of the competition debutants as they posted a commanding win against Iraq.
In Group E, Iran made an excellent first impression of their own by holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw in a breath-taking encounter. There was much to admire in the rollercoaster stalemate between Canada and Austria too, an entertaining contest which saved the best for last in the form of Nikola Zivotic's exquisite bicycle-kick finish.
Group E - Dubai
Canada 2-2 Austria
Iran 1-1 Argentina
Group F - Al Ain
Mexico 1-6 Nigeria
Iraq 1-4 Sweden
Ready for a higher level
He may be only 17, but Kelechi Iheanacho already looks set for the big time. That was certainly the opinion of Nigeria's travelling fans as they greeted the forward's third goal with chants of "Call him up, call him up", a message directed to the coach of the Super Eagles' senior team. Incredibly, those supporters were not done singing the youngster's praises yet either, as he later helped himself to a fourth strike to move top of the tournament scoring charts. Clinical in front of goal, Iheanacho clearly has a knack for the spectacular as well, all four of his efforts – struck with his left foot – combining artistry and confidence, rounded off by a wonderful shot from 20 metres.
What better way could there be to celebrate your birthday than to find the net in the first minute of a World Cup game against Argentina? That was the priceless gift Mostapha Hashemi presented himself on the day he turned 17, and the quality of the goal only made the moment even more special. Collecting the ball in midfield, the Iranian defender opened the scoring with just 55 seconds gone courtesy of a stunning half-volley from 25 metres out, thus registering the ninth fastest goal in the history of the competition.
Veteran eagle guarding the nest
Nigeria impressed on the pitch but they boast quite a talent on the sidelines too, 1994 African player of the year Emmanuel Amuneke contributing to the cause in his role as assistant coach. Scorer of two goals in his country's 1994 CAF Africa Cup of Nations final triumph, the former winger also won gold at the 1996 Olympics and appeared at the 1994 FIFA World Cup™, meaning he has all the credentials needed to advise young players on how to approach a major tournament. Given Nigeria's scintillating start, his input looks to be bearing fruit.
50 – Nigeria marked their 50th game at a U-17 World Cup in supreme style, sweeping aside Mexico to halt a run of seven consecutive victories for their opponents. Had they added another win to that sequence, the holders would have beaten the record for successive triumphs held by Brazil and Switzerland.
"Two years ago, we kicked off with a defeat. We've got off to a better start this time, and a point is always worth more than a loss. We had a few good moments but we made far too many mistakes. We know what we need to do to correct that and we'll do it," Canada coach Sean Fleming.
Slovakia-Honduras (Abu Dhabi, 17.00)
United Arab Emirates-Brazil (Abu Dhabi, 20.00)
Uruguay-Côte d'Ivoire (Ras Al Khaimah, 17.00)
Italy-New Zealand (Ras Al Khaimah, 20.00)