THE DAY REPLAYED - The second day of Round of 16 action at the FIFA U-17 World Cup United Arab Emirates 2013 witnessed two teams from both Africa and South America book their tickets through to the last eight. While Côte d'Ivoire narrowly edged past continental rivals Morocco, Nigeria highlighted their title credentials with a crushing victory over Iran.
Uruguay were equally dominant in overcoming tournament debutants Slovakia, but Argentina were made to work hard for their quarter-final berth against Tunisia. Today’s victors will now jostle for a spot in the semi-finals in fixtures pitting South Americans against Africans.
Round of 16 - Day Two
Uruguay 4-2 Slovakia
Morocco 1-2 Côte d'Ivoire
Argentina 3-1 Tunisia
Nigeria 4-1 Iran
Quick out of the blocks
The advantages of taking an early lead were clear to see in three of the day’s matches, with Côte d'Ivoire, Uruguay and Argentina all paving the way for their victories with swift goals. While the latter went ahead after just 90 seconds, the Africans hit the net with only four minutes on the clock, and Uruguay followed suit a minute later.
South American selflessness
When Uruguay were awarded a penalty, most spectators assumed striker Franco Acosta would take it in order to bolster his tally in the race for the adidas Golden Boot. Instead, Acosta selflessly handed the ball to team-mate Kevin Mendez, who converted the spot-kick with minimal fuss. As Leandro Otormin grabbed a brace in the match, La Celeste now have two players, each with four goals, in the running for the prize as the tournament’s best goal-getter.
By way of contrast, Nigeria’s frontline are not enjoying such good fortune. Against Iran, Kelechi Iheanacho may have scored his fifth goal at the competition, but he was substituted off shortly afterwards with a muscle strain. His strike partner Success Isaac succumbed to a similar fate in the side’s group game against Sweden, suffering an injury moments after scoring in the first-half that has forced him to miss his country’s subsequent encounters.
From Fujairah with love
Morocco’s Younes Bnou Marzouk could hardly contain his delight after leveling the scores at 1-1 against Côte d'Ivoire. The striker ran towards a television camera and celebrated his third goal of the tournament by sending a message to his parents back home with the words: “Mum, dad, I love you!” Yet family members were not the only fans to receive special thanks. After the final whistle, the North Africans showed their appreciation for the thunderous support of the spectators in the stadium throughout the game by doing a lap of honour, posing for numerous photos with their fans.
9 - Nigeria’s victory means they have now reached at least the quarter-finals at nine of the ten U-17 World Cups they have participated in. The only time the Golden Eaglets failed to do so was at Finland 2003, when they were packing for home after the group stage.
“Our opponents today were quicker, physically stronger and better in the challenge. That’s how they gained the upper hand and were able to control the game. A lot of good teams were eliminated in this round, and we played well, so there’s no reason to be downhearted. This group of players is the future of Moroccan football so we need to make sure we support the boys well and take good care of their development,” Morocco coach Abdellah El Idrissi.
Friday 1 November
Honduras - Sweden (Al Ain, 17:00, local time)
Brazil - Mexico (Dubai, 20:00 local time)
Saturday 2 November
Argentina - Côte d'Ivoire (Sharjah, 17:00 local time)
Uruguay - Nigeria (Sharjah, 20:00 local time)