THE DAY REPLAYED - The final day of group fixtures at Nigeria 2009 concluded with four teams confirming their ongoing participation at the tournament. USA and United Arab Emirates entered the final day of Group E action locked together on three points, safe in the knowledge that the winner of their match-up would claim a berth in the knockout stage. A workmanlike USA secured a 1-0 win, only for the UAE team to also progress by the slimmest margin imaginable. The Asian side reach the knockout stage for the first time at this level, finishing ahead of other third-place teams by virtue of the Fair-Play ranking after all other criteria was equal.
Things were far less complicated for group leaders Spain who maintained their 100 per cent record by easing past Malawi. The European heavyweights claimed a comfortable 4-1 win over the tournament debutants.
In Group F, Korea Republic claimed their top-16 status with a controlled 2-0 win against a disappointed Algeria, who go home without a goal or a point. Meanwhile in Kano, group winners Italy ground out a scoreless draw with Uruguay, with the point enough to guarantee the South Americans' progression.
The day's results brought heartbreak for both the Netherlands and three-time winners Brazil, who were eliminated in agonising circumstances. The pair are the unlucky third-place teams to miss out after being level with United Arab Emirates on points, goal difference and goals scored, only to be knocked out by virtue of a single extra caution in the Fair-Play countback. Germany and New Zealand are the other two third-place teams to progress.
Malawi 1-4 Spain
USA 1-0 United Arab Emirates
Korea Republic 2-0 Algeria
Italy 0-0 Uruguay
Click on the links in the right-hand column for full reports of the day's matches.
Goal of the day
*Malawi 1-4 Spain, Bruno Milanzi 82'
*It might not be the prettiest goal of the day but for the nation of Malawi it was a moment to celebrate. Captain Bruno Milanzi claimed the honour of scoring Malawi's first goal at a FIFA tournament eight minutes from the end of their final match. The skipper shot on target and then had the presence of mind to follow up and finish after Spanish goalkeeper Julen Celaya could only half save.
Despair turns to joy
The players of the United Arab Emirates squad were forced to endure the full range of emotions following their Group F loss to USA. Believing the defeat had meant their elimination from the competition, the UAE players appeared disconsolate at the final whistle only to come to life in the dressing room as the realisation dawned that they had edged through in third spot, and in the process became the first side from the Gulf nation to do so.
The match equipment got a thorough work-out for the opening fixture at Ijebu Ode's Gateway International Stadium, where USA faced United Arab Emirates. The goal net needed attention before the second half could recommence, not that it mattered as Jack McInerney's first-half goal was the only time the scoreboard attendant was called into action. Just as the match entered its final moments, a broken corner flag also necessitated a delay of several minutes for an unusual double.
*Goal touch uncovered
*After paying a heavy penalty for their profligacy in front of goal against Italy in their last match, Korea Republic turned all that around when it mattered most against Algeria. Their first two strikes on goal during the match proved the difference as the Koreans scored twice in the opening 22 minutes helping the Asian side confirm their ticket to the knockout stage.
*A fair go
*Spain coach Gines Melendez obviously believes in the notion of giving all his players an opportunity to show their wares and experience the world stage. Normal goalkeeper Edgar was left to cool his heels on the bench having been replaced by Yeray for the match against Malawi, with Julen Celaya also getting a taste of the action for the last 13 minutes.
The stat 9 - The number of goals scored by Spain, who averaged three strikes per game to overcome poor goalscoring form in qualifying. The European big guns hit the net more times than any of the other 23 nations during the group stage.