*THE DAY REPLAYED: *Venezuela and Mexico reached the semi-finals of the Girls’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament Nanjing 2014 on an evening filled with records and historic goals. The former started the competition with a comprehensive victory over Papua New Guinea and followed it up with another clear-cut triumph against Slovakia to progress to the second stage as Group A winners.
Despite losing their opening game to tournament hosts China PR, Mexico are now guaranteed to finish at least as runners-up in Group B after thrashing Namibia to move top of the standings for the time being. The final match between Namibia and China will decide the overall positions and determine which team will join the CONCACAF representatives in the last four, although the Africans’ hopes of advancing to the next round are slim due to their inferior goal difference.
*The results *Group A
*Venezuela 6-2 Slovakia
*Striker Deyna Castellanos spearheaded another goalfest for the South Americans by scoring a first half hat-trick to pave the way for a comfortable victory. The Slovakians refused to let their heads hang however, and were rewarded for their attacking endeavours with a goal from Martina Surnovska shortly before the interval.
Nathalie Pasquel extended Venezuela’s lead again with a superb individual effort in the second half, only for the impressive Surnovska to strike once more. Yet Venezuela’s victory was never in any doubt, with strikes from Yuleisi Rivero and a second from Pasquel sealing the win after a hugely entertaining game.
Mexico 9-0 Namibia
Mexico went on the front foot from the off but initially struggled to create any clear-cut chances against a resilient Nambian backline until Montserrat Hernandez’s direct free-kick in the 19th minute broke the deadlock.
Daniela Garcia and Alejandra Zaragoza each got on the scoresheet before the break to give the side a 3-0 half-time lead, before Mexico completely dominated the second period. Zaragoza grabbed two more, while further goals from Garcia and Hernandez, as well as Dayana Cazares and Maria Acedo, rounded off the biggest win in tournament history.
Memorable Moments *The human bicycle
*Venezuela have proved their creativity is not solely limited to their attacking play in Nanjing by producing imaginative goal celebrations throughout the tournament so far. Having demonstrated a variety of dance moves until now, the South Americans unveiled a specially choreographed routine to celebrate Castellanos’ goal that put them 2-0 up. Her team-mates, kneeing and lying on the pitch, formed a human bicycle on which they carried the pedalling goalscorer to enjoy the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.
*Slovakia midfielder Surnovska was just inches away from scoring a sensational long-range goal into the top corner against Venezuela, only to see her powerful drive from well over 20 metres crash off the post with goalkeeper Nayluisa Caceres well beaten. Surnovska did find the target just before half-time however, skipping past her marker with a delightful shimmy to rifle a shot low into the net. It was a historic goal, too, as it marked the first time a Slovakian women’s team had scored at a FIFA tournament.
*The stat 7 *- Deyna Castellanos is already the all-time leading scorer at the Girls’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament with seven goals to her name. The previous record was jointly held by Felicidad Avomo and Judit Ndong from Equatorial Guinea, with the duo each notching five in Singapore in 2010.
*Next up *Group A*
Slovakia – Papua New Guinea, Wutaishan Stadium, Wednesday 20 August, 18:00 (local time) *
*Namibia – China PR, Wutaishan Stadium, Wednesday 20 August, 20:45 (local time) *