THE DAY REPLAYED - Nigeria and hosts Japan are through to the last four of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2012 after two tense and exciting quarter-finals.
The first match of the day at the National Stadium in Tokyo bristled with incident. After a raft of shots against the woodwork, the Nigerians were particularly guilty of negligence in front of goal, although the Mexicans could themselves have broken the deadlock in a spirited second-half display. At the end of the day, an extra-time goal was enough to separate the sides, prompting celebrations for the Africans and despair for the North Americans.
In the second quarter-final, Japan and Korea Republic proved much less wasteful, and the record crowd of more than 24,000 saw no fewer than three goals in the first 20 minutes. The South Koreans cancelled out the hosts’ early opener, but two more goals before half-time set the Young Nadeshiko on their way to victory.
Nigeria 1-0 Mexico (aet)
Japan 3-1 Korea Republic
Goal of the dayNigeria-Mexico, Desire Oparanozie (109’)
Desire Oparanozie’s match-winning goal was not especially spectacular, but it was crucially important. The Falconets had laid siege to the Mexican goal for more than 100 minutes without gaining any reward for their efforts, but the breakthrough came with just 11 minutes remaining in extra time. A precise cross from the right flank by Ugo Njoku found Oparanozie lurking by the penalty mark. The striker outjumped her marker and powered a header just under the bar, leaving otherwise invincible Mexico keeper Cecilia Santiago grasping at thin air.
Memorable moments Look, we're on TV!
Normally the players use the time in the tunnel before emerging into the stadium to concentrate hard and focus quietly on the matter at hand. Not so Nigeria. As the Africans assembled in the tunnel, they spotted their own images on the stadium video screens, prompting an outbreak of dancing, singing and beaming grins!
Fireworks spark fireworks
Just a few minutes into the second quarter-final between Japan and Korea Republic, the eyes of the players and spectators were briefly drawn to the night sky, as a fireworks display taking place near the National Stadium briefly and spectacularly lit up the heavens. The unexpected entertainment seemed to inspire the Young Nadeshiko, as Hanae Shibata struck the eighth-minute opener just as the nearby display wound down.
A stalemate for the record books
The regulation 90 minutes between Nigeria and Mexico finished scoreless, making it the first occasion normal time had expired without a goal in a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup quarter-final. The additional 30 minutes was only the sixth period of extra time in the history of last-eight clashes.
All good things come in threes
In their third quarter-final appearance at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, Japan progressed to the last four for the first time. The Asians lost to Germany in extra time back in 2002, and to Korea DPR in 2008. The Young Nadeshiko also become the third host nation to make the semi-finals at the tournament, joining Canada in 2002 and Germany two years ago.
Boots of many colours
The Falconets’ attacking trio clearly put some thought into their attire for the first quarter-final, as the three Nigerian attackers ran out in colourful but contrasting boots. Goalscorer Oparanozie wore blue, Esther Sunday chose yellow, and Francisca Ordega opted for orange.
*Stat of the day 7 *- Mexico failed to score in the first half for the seventh game in a row at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. The North Americans last struck before the interval when they played Japan in 2010, a game which finished 3-3 after the Mexicans had raced into a 3-1 half-time lead.
The words *"We just reached the peak of a mountain. Winning a quarter-final means we secure two more games for the team. I always say to my players that the opening match and the quarter-final are the most important in a tournament." *Japan coach Hiroshi Yoshida
Next up *Quarter-finals, Friday, 31 August
*Germany v Norway, Saitama, 16.00
Korea DPR v USA, Saitama, 19.30