Friday, July 13, 2007

Another interesting night

Yesterday's FIFA U-20 World Cup Round of Sixteen matches had a tough act to follow after Wednesday's dramatics. However, it turned out to be another great evening of soccer, with many interesting storylines to follow. My picks all won as well, leaving me at 6 and 2 thus far. I'll post previews and predictions for the quarter-finals before matches begin tomorrow.

Poland - Argentina generated yesterday's best highlights, first with the surprise tally from Polish striker Dawid Janczyk, and then with the tremendous skill the Argentinians displayed in response. Maximiliano Moralez and Angel Di Maria combined very nicely for the first goal before the half, and then Sergio Aguero took over. Aguero, with his back to goal early on after the break, brilliantly chipped the ball to himself over his defender, ran around, and drilled it into the net. He then went on to pot his second marker of the evening near full time to seal the victory for his squad. Argentina looked brilliant all evening, and were able to break down the Poles' suffocating defence on many occasions, unlike Brazil's performance in the opener. They will have a tougher test on Sunday, when they take on a Mexican side that has dominated every game they've played so far.

Mexico had possibly the easiest draw in the round of 16, going up against a Congoese side that had barely snuck into third in Group A with a win over Canada in the final game. Congo put up a good fight, but were no match for the class of the Mexicans. They also ran into discipline issues, conceding an early penalty and having a player sent off shortly after the break. Mexico and their star striker, Giovanni Dos Santos (currently in second place on FIFA's poll asking who's been the best player so far, behind only Adrian Lopez of Spain) will face their toughest test to date in the next round as they go up against Argentina.

The Portugal - Chile match was as close a clash as anticipated. Chile's offense, led by Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, created chances all game. Vidal notched the only goal of the match just before halftime, though. Portugal also displayed offensive ability, but they seemed to struggle against the superb Chilean defence without the presence of injured star Bruno Gama. Bizarrely, there were three sendings-off in stoppage time. Portugal's Mano took out a Chilean player with a hard charge, and was promptly red-carded. His teammate Zequinha, protesting the call, grabbed the referee's card out of his hand, which only resulted in an ejection for him as well and reduced Portugal to nine men. Later on in stoppage time, Vidal received a second yellow for time-wasting, ejecting him from the game and disqualifying him for Chile's quarterfinal fixture against Nigeria on Sunday.

The Zambia - Nigeria match also featured some quality attacking soccer, with Nigeria taking the lead just three minutes in. Nigeria dominated the match, but Zambian keeper Jacob Banda kept his side in it, and it looked like there might be hope for the Zambians when they equalized in the 33rd minute. However, Nigerian midfielder Chukwuma Akabueze converted a solid strike in the 57th minute to ensure his side would advance. Next up for the Nigerians: a clash with Chile in Montreal.

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