THE DAY REPLAYED: Venezuela and China PR, the two favourites for the title, have reached the final of the 2014 Girls' Youth Olympic Football Tournament in Nanjing. However, both teams were forced to sweat it out over long periods and had their goalkeepers to thank after going through following thrilling penalty shoot-outs.
*The results *Semi-finals
*Venezuela – Mexico 1-1 (1-1) 4-3 on penalties
*The Venezuelans got off to a perfect start and went ahead after only two minutes through Argelis Campos. Mexico hit back shortly after when Dayana Cazares finished off a counter for the equaliser. The North Americans really found their feet and had further chances for Daniela Garcia, who narrowly missed twice, as well as Montserrat Hernandez, who could only hit the bar after the ball was played to her inside the box. Goalkeeper Kelsey Brann rescued at the last moment against Deyna Castellanos for the opposition. That all meant that a spectacular match was to be decided on penalties. In the end, it was Venezuelan keeper Nayluisa Caceres who made the difference and led her side to the final.
*China PR – Slovakia 0-0 (0-0) 4-2 on penalties
*The second semi-final got off to a quick start and it was the Chinese who got the first chance of the game through Fang Jie, whose header was superbly saved by Denisa Mochnacka. A short while later, it was the turn of China’s keeper to show her quality as Xu Huan made a great reflex stop from Laura Sucha’s effort. The Chinese increased the pressure on the well-drilled Slovakian defence as the match wore on, and had their fair share of chances. Zhao Yujie and Fang Jie were guilty of some poor finishing and the best opportunity in regular time fell to Jin Kun in time added-on at the end of the match as she was played through after a counter. Unfortunately for her and China, her shot ended up inches wide of the target. In the day's second penalty shoot-out, again it was a goalkeeper who was the hero as Zheng Jie decided the match for her team.
Memorable moments Reminders of South Africa * *
During the match between Venezuela and Mexico, we were reminded of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The Venezuelan section of the crowd included athletes representing their country in other sports and not only were chants to be heard from them, but vuvuzelas were also used to get behind the team. The unmistakeable sound of the instruments filled the Wutaishan Stadium just as impressively as it did four years ago at the FIFA World Cup™ stadiums in the “Rainbow Nation”.
*The queens of the penalty shootout
*That Venezuela and China PR are both moving on to contest the gold medal match in Nanjing is mostly down to their two keepers, Nayluisa Caceres and Zheng Jie. The South American No1 proved herself to be very reliable between the posts during regular time and became the heroine of the evening in the resulting shoot-out. Caceres managed to turn away Monserrat Hernandez’s attempt before taking the decisive penalty herself to send her team into the final. The Asians, meanwhile, had Zheng Jie to thank after she was able to deny two Slovakian penalty-takers.
*Lu Yilang, just like Van Gaal
*China’s No18 Zheng Jie had to follow the action from the bench until she was brought on by coach Lu Yilang shortly before the end of regular time. She replaced Xu Huan between the sticks, and it was a hugely successful move. There were certainly shades of the Netherlands' win over Costa Rica in the Brazil 2014 quarter-final after a similar stroke of genius from Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.
The stat 16 – Both Argelis Campos (Venezuela) and Dayana Cazeres have squad No16, and they were both responsible for the goals in their semi-final.
*Next up *The Final
Venezuela – China PR, Wutaishan Stadium, Tuesday 26 August, 20:45 (local time)
Mexico – Slovakia, Wutaishan Stadium, Tuesday 26 August, 18:00 (local time)
*Papua New Guinea – Namibia, Jiangning Sports Centre Stadium, Monday 25 August, 18:00 (local time) *