THE DAY REPLAYED – The first two quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup could not have provided more contrasting results on Saturday. Favourites to lift the trophy, Spain found themselves on the end of a surprising extra-time defeat by Uruguay. La Celeste required the heading skills of the tournament’s tallest player, Felipe Avenatti, to see off La Rojita and claim a place in the semi-finals.
In the day’s earlier match, meanwhile, France comfortably disposed of Uzbekistan to provide fans watching at home with a second sporting triumph in a matter of hours, following Marion Bartoli’s success at Wimbledon. The French domination was such that Pierre Mankowski’s charges were able to pepper the Uzbek goal with no fewer than 28 shots throughout the match. Les Bleuets therefore advance to the last four of Turkey 2013, the second time they have reached that stage in five appearances. And their formidable performance in Rize suggests that they have no intention of bringing their adventure to an end just yet.
Painful day between the sticks
Over the course of the two matches on Saturday’s fixture list, the goalkeepers involved suffered an excruciating 90 minutes in all senses of the word. On two occasions, Uzbek custodian Asilbek Amanov was the unfortunate victim of some physical challenges from France’s imposing strikeforce. Elsewhere, Spain No1 Daniel Sotres was quick to put himself in harm’s way for the good of the team towards the end of normal time. As he pulled off a spectacular last-gasp diving save, he was unlucky to painfully collide with his left-hand post, and forced to come off hurt. To add insult to injury, neither player was able to console himself with a victory, as both Uzbekistan and Spain were ousted from the tournament.
Fans call fowl
The late fixture in Bursa saw Uruguay and Spain play out a suspenseful match that swung to and fro. As if the action on the pitch were not sufficient, a storm broke out in the middle of the game. An increasing number of eye-catching lightning strikes gave the encounter the feel of an Alfred Hitchcock film at one point. There was, however, one man in the stands who did not appear at all concerned by this violent turn in the weather: a Uruguayan supporter dressed as a blue duck. The amusing-looking bird provoked laughs on all side, bringing a touch of humour to what had become a tense evening.
Even prior to the kick-off of their quarter-final, the French players had already received some unexpected inspiration. A clip, showing memorable moments from previous FIFA U-20 World Cups, including Colombia 2011, where France finished fourth, was broadcast on the stadium’s giant screen. Judging from the determined faces of Paul Pogba and Co, this new generation is determined to improve on that result, and they took another step towards that goal by handing Uzbekistan a resounding 4-0 loss.
Note: If you would also like to view the video of highlights of previous FIFA U-20 World Cups, please click on the link on the right-hand side.
The Stat of the Day
8 – In keeping with their motto (‘One for all’), France’s players have tended to share attacking duties so far at Turkey 2013. In fact, a remarkable eight players have scored the 13 goals recorded by the team in this year’s competition. Yaya Sanogo is currently the side’s top marksman with four goals. During the 1998 FIFA World Cup™, the 15 goals netted by Les Bleus were the work of nine different players, plus one own goal. This spreading of scoring duties did not prevent the host nation from hoisting the trophy, of course.
— Sebastian Cristoforo (@SCristoforo25) July 6, 2013
7 July (all local times)
Quarter-finals day 2
Iraq-Korea Republic (18.00, Kayseri)
Ghana-Chile (21.00, Istanbul)