THE DAY REPLAYED – Wednesday’s four games at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 produced a glut of goals, with no fewer than 20 being scored in all. Three of the day's winners in Groups C and D also booked their places in the Round of 16, among them Spain, whose second straight win in Colombia was also their seventh consecutive victory in a FIFA U-20 World Cup group game.
Joining them in the next round are Saudi Arabia, who crushed Guatemala 6-0. The Saudis’ biggest ever win in a FIFA tournament took them through to the last 16 of the competition for the very first time and made it a 19th birthday to remember for their captain Abdullah Otayf. The third and final early qualifier of the evening were Nigeria, who took their goal tally from two games to ten after completing a resounding 5-2 defeat of Croatia, who were the last European side to concede five goals at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, at Malaysia 1997.
The day’s other winners were Costa Rica, who moved into second place in Group C after edging a five-goal thriller against Australia. Not even the second-half introduction of the big-haired Mustafa Amini could help the Young Socceroos, although his every touch was cheered by the fans, who chanted “Pibe! Pibe! Pibe!” at him in tribute to his Carlos Valderrama-style hair-do, Valderrama’s nickname being “El Pibe” (The Kid).
Ecuador 0-2 Spain
Australia 2-3 Costa Rica
Saudi Arabia 6-0 Guatemala
Croatia 2-5 Nigeria
Goal of the day
Croatia-Nigeria, Terna Suswan 30
Nigeria’s second goal against the hapless Croatians was simple but brilliant. Collecting the ball 30 yards out, Terna Suswan strode forward before unleashing a right-footed drive that fizzed past the helpless Matej Delac and into the top corner. The Setubal player celebrated his thunderbolt by getting his team-mates together in a circle and pretending to play a video game.
Five changes and six goals: Guatemala coach Ever Almeida rang the changes before his side took to the field against Saudi Arabia, bringing in five new faces for the game, among them goalkeeper Roberto Padilla. Yet, having shipped five goals against Nigeria in their opening match, the Central Americans went one worse in Armenia on Wednesday, as the Saudis sprang their flimsy offside trap time and again to chalk up a comprehensive win.
Inspired substitutions: Both Spain’s goals against Ecuador came from their subs, Sergio Canales and Alvaro Vasquez, while Nigeria’s Uche Nwofor also made quite an impact from the bench, scoring twice in their romp against Croatia after coming on in the 67th minute.
Joel keeps his feet: Joel Campbell almost fell over himself in scoring a superb opener for his side against the Australians. Picking up the ball ten yards outside the box, the gifted Tico striker attempted to swerve past a defender only to stumble and lose his balance. Instead of falling to the ground, Campbell somehow recovered his poise, cut back inside another defender and slotted the ball into the back of the net.
6 - The number of Saudi Arabia players on the scoresheet against Guatemala, a notable feat also achieved by Egypt in thrashing Trinidad and Tobago by the same 6-0 scoreline at Portugal 1991, and by Brazil in putting ten past Belgium at Malaysia 1997.
There is everything to play for in Thursday’s quartet of matches, to be held in Cartagena, Barranquilla and Medellin, with two sections coming to a conclusion and all eight teams still in the frame. In Group E Brazil face Panama and Egypt meet Austria, while in Group F Mexico and England lock horns at the same time as group leaders Argentina and Korea DPR.