THE DAY REPLAYED – The conditions could barely have been more different in Cali and Bogota, with the heat of the former contrasting sharply with the heavy rainfall that delayed the kick-offs in the latter city. All of which contributed to an intriguing Matchday 2 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, which featured an emphatic victory for the hosts over France, a game of two halves between Uruguay and Portugal, Cameroon scoring at both ends against New Zealand, and three points for Korea Republic.
Roared on by a packed stadium in Bogota, Colombia found themselves a goal down after just 21 minutes against France, only to subsequently overwhelm Les Bleuets 4-1 after a blistering second half. Korea Republic's success was also indebted to post-interval goals against Mali.
In another disappointment for the African contingent, Cameroon were held 1-1 by New Zealand in Group B, with the latter equalising via a Serge Tchaha own-goal. For the Kiwis, the result brought them their first point at a FIFA U-20 World Cup, having lost all three matches on their previous outing in 2007. The pool remains wide open, however, after the goalless stalemate between Portugal and Uruguay.
Mali 0-2 Korea Republic
Colombia 4-1 France
Cameroon 1-1 New Zealand
Portugal 0-0 Uruguay
Goal of the day
Colombia-France, Luis Muriel 48’
In a goal that was both magnificent and vital in equal measure, Michael Ortega’s subtle back-heel freed Luis Muriel, whose sleight of foot left France defender Kalidou Koulibaly flailing before he slotted past keeper Jonathan Ligali to put Los Cafeteros in front for the first time.
A taste of Africa in Cali: They may have been playing thousands of kilometres away from African soil, but Cameroon will have felt right at home thanks to the heat of Cali, the support of most of the spectators in the Estadio Pascual Guerrero and a vibrant atmosphere complete with vuvuzelas. Throw in the strains of South Africa 2010’s official anthem, Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira, that could be heard outside the ground and the picture was complete. Not that it appeared to affect opponents New Zealand, who held out for a draw.
Size isn’t everything: Measuring in at an imposing 1.97m, Mali forward Kalifa Coulibaly cut an imposing figure in his side’s clash with Korea Republic. Yet despite using his size and skill with his back to goal to create a host of clear opportunities for his team-mates, particularly in the first half, a collective failure to convert paved the way for the South Koreans' 2-0 success.
Colombia behind their boys: Before taking the field at Bogota’s Estadio Nemesio Camacho, Los Cafeteros got together for a group hug in the dressing room. Determined to fire his team-mates up, skipper Pedro Franco yelled out, “We’re great! We’re really great!”, which was promptly backed up by the squad's fitness coach, who chanted, “There’s 11 of us, but we’ve got 46 million behind us!” Further evidence of the support the Colombians enjoyed came during a moving rendition of the national anthem by the yellow-bedecked crowd, undoubtedly one of the most emotional moments of the competition so far.
4 – The number of penalties awarded over the course of the day, though only Korea Republic’s Jang Hyun Soo and Colombia’s James Rodriguez could convert from the spot. The latter did blot his copybook slightly when his second penalty of the game was saved by France keeper Jonathan Ligali, while Cameroon’s Christ Mbondi was also denied by Kiwi custodian Stefan Marinovic, though he made amends by slotting home the rebound.
The only two groups yet to get underway, C and D, join the fray on Sunday. In the former, Spain will attempt to justify their trophy contenders’ tag against Costa Rica, while section rivals Australia and Ecuador also square off. In Group D, Croatia face Saudi Arabia, while Nigeria will expect to take all three points against Guatemala.