THE DAY REPLAYED – The group stage of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 drew to a close on Sunday, with the final matches in Groups E and F determining the line-up of the Round of 16. New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Costa Rica and Korea DPR all qualified for the knockout stages, on a day full of drama and turnarounds.
France consolidated their position at the top of Group F by making light work of Syria, scoring twice in each half and eliminating the Asian side.
In the other match in that section, New Zealand snatched second place from Paraguay in stirring fashion, grabbing a well-worked goal in stoppage time for a hard-fought 2-1 victory. The South Americans finished third, and were forced to wait for the results in the later matches to see if they had done enough to advance.
Unfortunately for them, Korea DPR took a leaf out of the Kiwis’ book, notching a winner in injury time to beat Costa Rica 2-1, a result that not only qualified both teams but that sent the Paraguayans home. Elsewhere in Group D, Russia put paid to South Africa’s hopes with an early penalty and a stunning last-minute free-kick.
Finally, the New Zealand result had the additional knock-on effect of eliminating England (Group B) and, combined with Syria’s defeat, helped send Australia (Group C) through to the last 16.
Paraguay 1-2 New Zealand (Group F)
France 4-0 Syria (Group F)
Costa Rica 1-2 Korea DPR (Group E)
Russia 2-0 South Africa (Group E)
Goal of the day
Paraguay 1-2 New Zealand, Lucas Imrie (90+1)
As this match entered into time added-on in Puerto Montt, ten-man Paraguay just needed the result to hold in order to book a place in the next round. New Zealand forward Lucas Imrie had other ideas, however, latching on to a superb chipped pass from Sarpreet Singh to bring to an end eight matches without a win at this level and qualify the OFC representatives for the knockout phase for the third time in their history.
Janvier juggernaut: Handed a starting berth for the first time, France midfielder Nicolas Janvier did not exactly let the occasion get to him against Syria. In fact, he was the star of the show, getting on the scoresheet twice and turning provider for the two other goals. Asked about the player at the post-match press conference by FIFA.com, France coach Jean-Claude Guintini refused to get too carried away, stating, “He had a good match. In the games to come, he’ll be an option we can use, just like any other player.”
Antipodean allies: The England squad, watching from their hotel in Coquimbo, were hoping for various results in Groups E and F to go their way so that they could remain in Chile for a few days more. However, New Zealand’s last-gasp triumph over Paraguay shattered those dreams. At the same time, Australia’s players, keeping an eye on the scores from their hotel in Chillan, exploded with joy at the knowledge that the Young All Whites had played their part.
Cutting inside: After having celebrated their pivotal victory in Puerto Montt, the young New Zealanders returned to their dressing room and demanded the presence of one of the members of their backroom staff, who promptly entered to uproarious laughter, sitting down and holding up a pair of scissors to the group with a happy yet resigned look on his face. The players then proceeded to cut their older compatriot’s flowing locks, which had been allowed to grow for 15 years but which had also been used as collateral in a bet involving the Kiwis’ potential qualification for the Round of 16.
14 – The number of goals scored by France in the group phase, a total that represents a new record for a European team at the U-17 World Cup, beating the previous benchmark of 11 set by Germany in 2007 and 2011. The all-comers record remains the property of Brazil, who scored 15 times in three matches in 2013.
“I’d like to thank the Chilean people and the residents of Puerto Montt and Concepcion for their support. During our stay, we were made to feel like friends rather than strangers,” Mohamed Alattar, Syria coach.
Round of 16 (all times local)
Wednesday 28 October
Brazil-New Zealand (17.00)
Korea Republic-Belgium (20.00)
Thursday 29 October
Mali-Korea DPR (17.00)
France-Costa Rica (20.00)