Of the four teams involved in Sunday’s quarter-finals, not one would have figured highly on a list of pre-tournament favourites. All, though, have reached this stage very much on merit, some cruising through and others battling and scrapping against more fancied opposition.
Ghana certainly fall into the latter category, having pulled off a heroic 3-2 win over in-form Portugal after scraping through the group stage by the narrowest of margins. The reward for the Black Satellites is a tie against Chile, who failed to reach the final of the South American U-19 Championship but qualified from their section and disposed of Croatia in the last 16 with relative ease.
The other quarter-final, meanwhile, is an all-Asian affair between two sides with plenty of history. Iraq and Korea Republic enjoyed differing fortunes during the group phase, but were united in ousting powerful South American opposition in the last round and will feel that glory is in sight. FIFA.com previews the action.
7 July (all times local)
Iraq-Korea Republic, Kayseri, 18.00
Ghana-Chile, Istanbul, 21.00
Iraq and Chile will each be without a key player, with Mohanad Abdulraheem and Sebastian Martinez respectively ruled out by one-game suspensions.
“It will be a revenge match for us.” This was how Hakeem Shakir set the scene for a rematch between his Iraq side and Korea Republic. The reason for Shakir seeking retribution is that the South Koreans snatched the Asian title from under his team’s noses last November, coming from a goal down to win by the same means by which they eliminated Colombia: a penalty shootout.
Iraq have undoubtedly been the more impressive of the Asian representatives here at Turkey 2013, emerging unbeaten from matches against opponents as formidable as England, Egypt, Chile and Paraguay. However, they have been dealt a heavy blow with the news that Abudulraheem, their attacking spearhead and talisman, not to mention AFC Young Player of the Year, will be suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the competition. Korea Republic, meanwhile, will be aiming to develop some momentum in a tournament in which, despite reaching the last eight, their record stands at one win, two draws and a loss.
The Other Highlight
Though neither Ghana nor Chile were able to top their respective group, both have shown in fits and bursts why they are genuine title contenders. Each eliminated a section-winner in the last 16 – the Black Satellites seeing off Portugal, La Rojita disposing of Croatia – and confidence will be high ahead of what should be an enthralling, incident-packed encounter. Contrasting styles but a shared commitment to positive, attacking football make this a match in which 0-0 seems the unlikeliest of scorelines.
The Player to Watch
The Chile striker is one of the players whose presence makes it extremely improbable that the net will remain untroubled in Istanbul’s Ali Sami Yen Stadium. With a goal in each of his three appearances thus far, Castillo is thriving in the centre of Chile’s three-man attack and will be out to maintain his 100 per cent record against a Ghana defence that has conceded seven times in four matches.
4 - Iraq are the late goal specialists at Turkey 2013. Testament both to their stamina and their strength of character is that four of their seven strikes at this FIFA U-20 World Cup have arrived on the 75-minute mark or later.
“They took the cup from us at the Asian Championships but now we want to show who’s best in Asia in front of the whole world. We were unlucky last time but on this occasion we are ready to be more precise in our play, and to win for sure. I will say now that this Iraqi team can go all the way to the final.”
Hakeem Shakir, Iraq coach