THE DAY REPLAYED: The quarter-final line-up at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany is now complete. It comprises six European teams and the two giants from South America. All eight first-round groups are represented six winners and two runners-up.
Today the reigning world champions Brazil gained their pass as did the 1998 winners France and the teams will meet on Saturday in Frankfurt. Before then the football world pauses for breath after 19 frenetic, fascinating days. What lies ahead is truly something to savour.
Brazil advanced by removing Ghana, the last African representatives in the competition, with a 3-0 win in Dortmund . For a side apparently still to reach their form, they are ticking over quite effectively and have scored as many goals (ten) as any of the other teams whose hopes remain intact. One of their trio in Dortmund came from Ronaldo, putting him out in front as the competition's all-time leading scorer with 15 goals , one more than the great Gerd Muller .
In the final Round of 16 match-up, France, another team to attract undue criticism for their early performances, got the better of Spain, shrugging off the shock of going behind to a penalty to score three of their own .
It was knockout football at its best when one false move could destroy dreams for another four years. Pace was a compelling feature of the night, that and guile in the shape of Xabi Alonso , and of Zinedine Zidane who enters the field knowing every game now could be his last. Instead in Hanover he had the last word, driving Les Bleus onwards and upwards.
When Zizou departs there are new names to demand our attention, young men with the talent and pace to stay at the top for every bit as long as the senior generation. At the vanguard of the new set are the jet-heeled Frank Ribery and Fernando Torres, two outstanding talents blessed with the freedom and expression of youth.
Goal of the Day
- Frank Ribery quick and composed*
Ribery might have been sacrificed with Zidane's return after suspension but coach Raymond Domenech had been impressed, along with millions of others, at the way his young musketeer had refused to be inhibited by two shocking attempts on goal against Togo in the game that secured France's qualification after two stuttering draws.
So the coach kept the faith and was rewarded with a lovely equaliser after David Villa's unstoppable penalty had shot Spain in front. Patrick Vieira knocked it through and Ribery showed outstanding pace as he bore down on goal before rounding Iker Casillas to score.
Player of the Day
- Patrick Vieira a goal, an assist and much industry *
It was just the pre-interval response France needed having fallen behind following the decision to penalise Lilian Thuram's challenge on Pablo. They had promised they would get better the longer they stayed in Germany and this was their most commanding performance to date, exploding into life again with Patrick Vieira's far-post header which struck Sergio Ramos on its way into the net with seven minutes remaining. The coup de grace was then applied by Zidane in added time. So Spain, the talk of Germany after the first round of matches, go out, their long run of 25 matches unbeaten under Luis Aragones at an end.
There were many hoping that Ghana could strike a blow for African football and give Brazil a real test. The theory was based around their strength and aggression which could have made life difficult for the *Seleção * artists. But the argument ignored the fact that Michael Essien was a non-starter, ruled out by two yellow cards. With him went so much of the newcomers' drive and power.
Moment of the Day
- Ronaldo moves to 15 and a new record*
Nor did it help their cause that Brazil were in front in the fifth minute when Kaka invited Ronaldo to run clear of a square and static back line. A step-over bamboozled the goalkeeper and Brazil were on their way while Ronaldo had a place in history.
Ghana carved out chances but Dida's luck was in: the finishing was either wayward or straight at him. From a corner John Mensah climbed for the header but saw the ball strike the goalkeeper on the boot.
Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic had declared that his team could cause a surprise because the opposition were not as strong as they once were. That remains to be seen. The South Americans have still to be really tested in this tournament and we can only guess as to how much improvement will be revealed once genuine heat is applied. The contest was virtually all over at half-time with Adriano having just made it 2-0. The third was claimed by Ze Roberto who also picked up the Budweiser Man of the Match honours.