THE DAY REPLAYED _ Unsung Switzerland stole the show in Abuja, dashing Nigeria’s hopes of crowning an exciting tournament with their fourth FIFA U-17 World Cup title. Taking part in the competition for the first time in their modest history, the Swiss made light of their status as newcomers and Nigeria’s imposing pedigree to win the country’s maiden FIFA title.
No one can argue that the unfancied Swiss did not deserve their success either. After seeing off Brazil, Mexico, Germany and Italy along the way, the central Europeans won the trophy the hard way, earning a 1_0 win against the hosts and defending champions in front of a passionate 60,000 crowd at the National Stadium.
Having turned up in numbers to cheer their young heroes to an unprecedented fourth title in the category, the home fans had no option but to shelve their party plans and ponder what might have been.
Earlier in the day, with the stadium starting to fill for the main event, Spain put the disappointment of their semi-final exit behind them to beat Colombia into third place. The only goal of the game came from Isco, one of the revelations of the tournament.
Though the Spaniards were relieved to come away with something to show for their efforts of the last three weeks, they will no doubt be lamenting their failure to improve on the runners_up slot they obtained at Korea 2007.
Colombia 0-1 Spain
Switzerland 1-0 Nigeria
Goal of the day
Haris Seferovic 63, Switzerland_Nigeria.
Switzerland’s match_winning strike came from an entirely predictable source. The Grasshopper Zurich forward had already scored four times en route to the final and though this was not the most aesthetically pleasing goal of his Nigeria 2009 haul, there is no doubting it was the most important. Outjumping Ramon Azeez at a corner_kick, Seferovic powered a pinpoint header out of goalkeeper Dami Paul’s reach, prising the coveted trophy out of the Golden Eaglets’ grasp at the same time.
Instant redemption for Isco
With just 15 minutes remaining of Spain’s match for third place against Colombia, striker Isco was presented with a gilt_edged chance to put the Spanish ahead only to miss his kick completely. Keeping his cool as the ball immediately found its way back to him, the Valencia man atoned for his air shot by smartly side_footing home to seal La Rojita’s place on the podium.
Supersub loses his touch
Having become joint top_scorer in the tournament with five goals, despite beginning every game on the bench, Nigerian supersub Sani Emmanuel suddenly found himself in the starting line_up for the final. The switch did not pay off for the talismanic target man, however, who spurned several presentable opportunities before earning some consolation as he took receipt of the adidas Golden Ball.
Abuja puts on a show
Decked out in green and white from head to toe, the 60,000 fans crammed into the Abuja National Stadium served up a spectacular atmosphere for the final, singing the Nigerian national anthem with passion, hanging banners from every available corner and tooting on their vuvuzuelas from start to finish. Looking on in admiration from the stadium press box, the world’s journalists had never seen anything quite like it at an U-17 match. “It’s the noisiest atmosphere I’ve ever heard outside the Westfalenstadion (Borussia Dortmund’s home ground),” said one correspondent from the USA.