THE DAY REPLAYED - Colombia and Switzerland have claimed the first two semi-final berths at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2009 in Nigeria. Following a dramatic late twist to their encounter with Turkey, the South Americans triumphed 5-3 on penalties to claim a place in the semis for only the second time in the history of the tournament, matching a previous last-four appearance in 2003. Switzerland's achievement was even more momentous, as their 2-1 win over Italy places them in the semi-finals of a FIFA competition for the first time since the Olympic Football Tournament way back in 1924.
The Bauchi crowd had already been treated to a penalty shoot-out in the Round of 16, a sudden death contest won by Korea Republic. This time it was the Colombian shooting stars who held their nerves best in the eternal duel between the man stepping up to the spot and the man on the line. The young Turks, brimming with the enthusiasm reflected in a string of brash public statements in the build-up to the game, looked set for victory courtesy of a Muhammet Demir strike. But for the third time in a row, the South Americans showed they should never be written off, as late sub Jorge Luis Ramos grabbed the equaliser in the last minute of normal time.
In Ijebu-Ode, Switzerland's U-17 World Cup finals debut continued on its fairytale path, as a moment of magic from keeper Benjamin Siegrist undid ultra-efficient Italy. Following Nassim Ben Khalifa's opener and Federico Carraro's free-kick equaliser, Oliver Buff edged the Swiss back in front, before Siegrist saved Marco Fossati's spot-kick just seconds later to preserve the lead and send a nation into raptures. Two worthy FIFA U-17 World Cup venues thus signed off with a pair of pulsating encounters.
Colombia 1-1 Turkey (aet, 5-3 PSO)
Switzerland 2-1 Italy
Goal of the day
Jorge Luis Ramos, Colombia-Turkey, 90'
With full time looming, the Colombians were doing nothing more than launching a last desperate Hail Mary effort to fend off their looming exit, punting a long, high ball into the penalty box. Ramos, who had only entered the fray four minutes earlier, appeared from nowhere and hurled himself at the ball without breaking his stride, twisting in the air and glancing a header over startled keeper Deniz Mehmet for a last-gasp equaliser. A moment of salvation for his side, it was an artistic and acrobatic goal to savour.
Tearful end for tragic hero
Muhammet Demir rates as one of the outstanding individuals uncovered by this tournament of rising stars. Whenever the captain featured in the line-up, Abdullah Ercan's side took an early lead and went on to win - until the quarter-final in Bauchi. Demir's evening started promisingly enough as he himself fired his side ahead against Colombia. However, the Bursaspor striker cut a forlorn figure as the South Americans snatched their dramatic victory. Demir appeared close to tears after the final whistle, but the talented No9 will soon pick himself up in the knowledge that a bright future surely lies ahead.
Cunning coach and super sub
Ramiro Viafara is as canny a customer as they come. If that was not evident before Nigeria 2009, it certainly is now. The Colombia boss, whose ancestors came from a Nigerian tribe, has shown mastery of the perfect late substitution not once but twice. In the Round of 16, he sent on Jean Blanco with four minutes to go. Just 120 seconds later, that very player fired an equaliser. Viafara pulled off exactly the same trick against Turkey when he introduced last-minute saviour Ramos. In so many ways, the 62-year-old rates as the supreme architect of his side's amazing comeback powers which have now taken them as far as the semi-finals.
Tricky Siegrist ensures Swiss roll on
Switzerland had just taken a 2-1 lead, but Italy seemed to have come up with the perfect riposte. The Azzurrini won a penalty straight from the restart, pitting keeper Siegrist against Marco Fossati. There followed a textbook demonstration of goalkeeping psychology. Indicating the corner of his goal, the Switzerland shot-stopper offered the penalty-taker his right-hand side, watched Fossati's run-up - and hurled himself downwards to the left to complete the save. The young No1 is clearly wise beyond his years. For his part, Fossati will be wishing he had accepted Siegrist's kind "offer."
8 - All of the Colombians' eight goals in Nigeria have come in the second half. That fact is remarkable enough in itself, but even more incredibly, five of the eight have fallen in the last 12 minutes, testament to the stickability of the young Cafeteros.