Mexico’s merry band of tomorrow’s stars were crowned U-17 World champions last weekend on the hallowed ground at the fabled Estadio Azteca, the very same turf where the likes of legends Diego Maradona and Pele had some of their most iconic moments. Uruguay spilled the inevitable bitter tears on the night, so close yet so far to a first title in the junior category.
While the final itself was as tense and tightly played a game as we’ve seen at this FIFA U-17 World Cup, the match for third place was a spectacle of open play, goals and carefree football. Germany beat Brazil 4-3 with the crowd treated to a dazzling undercard.
The goal of the day wasn’t the prettiest goal of the tournament, but the reaction from the nearly 100,000 fans at the Azteca to the clinical counter-attack in the closing moments of the final was nothing short of bombastic. Collecting the ball from Arturo Gonzalez as the Uruguayans were stretched in search of a late equaliser, the super-sub extraordinaire slammed into the side netting to put the final result beyond doubt and spark scenes of unparalleled joy in the Mexican capital.
It was strange to see fans at the Azteca supporting Germany so fervently, especially just days after the semi-final where the Germans gave the home side a fright and were subjected to all manner of insults and abuse from the Torreon faithful. But the attacking nature of this German team is nothing short of infectious and the fans appreciated Samed Yesil and Co’s outstanding display as they bested Brazil to finish the tournament with the best attacking record, a full 24 goals scored in seven games. Green-clad Mexican supporters threw sombreros down to the bashful Germans and blew kisses as the junior Nationalmannschaft did an impromptu victory lap after the final whistle. Coach Steffen Freund even donned one of those oversized traditional Mexican hats at the post-game press conference, saying “adios” and “muchas gracias” with a wide smile in his best, broken Spanish.
While they did seem to care for the Germans a great deal, the Azteca fans’ one true love remained their young El Tri. And though it is a cliché to talk about the 12th man and its influence in football, the power of the hulking stadium itself seemed to count for much down on the pitch. The first glimpse the massive crowd got of their young heroes was not during the final itself. While Germany and Brazil traded goals in the third-place game, the Mexican players stuck their heads out of the tunnel for a brief second. The roar that greeted the cameo was as explosive and joyful as the cacophony of whistles, boos and clenched fists that greeted the Uruguayans’ first appearance. It was a hint of things to come as the huge crowd at the mighty Azteca roared, shouted, chanted, ‘Cielito Lindo-d’ and ‘ole-d’ the boys on to a 2-0 win and a second U-17 world title.
The enduring affection for star midfielder Julio Gomez simply could not be contained. The Pachuca man single-handedly put Mexico into the final after scoring twice and playing on with a bloody head injury in the semi-final win over Germany. He started the final on the bench, but the fans, many of them wearing bandages on their head in his honour, chanted his name all night long. He received the biggest roar when he finally entered the pitch, head still bandaged, mid-way through the second half. The gathered media, most of them Mexican, also voted with their hearts, voting him the adidas Golden Ball winner as tournament top player by a wide margin.
The number of fans that filed through the gates at the massive Azteca for the final of the U-17 World Cup was 98,943. The fans turned out in their numbers to support the home side’s charge to the title, and in doing so they broke the record for the largest final-day crowd in the tournament’s 26-year history. The average attendance for Mexico 2011’s 52 games stands at 19,275.
Aisha Buhari Cup: FIFA, CAF Presidents Grace Kick-Off, Falcons Win 2-0
Substitute Gift Monday handed Nigeria a sweet 2-0 victory on the opening day of the maiden edition of the Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Tournament in the City of Lagos.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State led eminent political big-wigs, and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and CAF President, Patrice Motsepe led football’s top echelon, including President of NFF and FIFA council member, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, to the showpiece at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan.
Monday, interestingly a player of FC Robo Queens of Lagos, spurned in the air to meet a cross by Captain Asisat Oshoala in the 83rd minute and nodded past goalkeeper Fatoumata Karenta, six minutes after coming into the fray for Francisca Ordega.
The goal put the Super Falcons in the lead after a rather turgid day on Lagos island, with the Malians showing greater zest and desire in the opening half and returning after the recess with the same impressive fighting spirit.
The visiting Female Eagles had survived a raid on their area in the 5th minute as Nigeria looked to go into the lead with a corner, but the defence cleared. Nine minutes later, Ordega sidenetted from another quick dash upfront, and in the 18th minute, Ageusissa Diarra tested Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie from a 30-yard free-kick.
In the second half, Uchenna Kanu sidenetted in the 67th minute, before Oshoala, who should have scored with only the goalkeeper to beat, failed to get past Karenta. In the 74th minute, Karenta again saved from Kanu.
In the 83rd minute, Monday rose highest in the box and nodded past Karenta, bringing so much excitement to the arena.
One minute into added time, Monday was again at the end of an Asisat’s assist, and looped the ball over an advancing Karenta to put huge smiles on the faces of Nigerians.
Enyimba Appoints Finidi George As Head Coach
The former Ajax and Real Betis winger, George Finidi, who replaces Fatai Osho whose contract expired at the end of August, has joined the eight-time Nigerian champions, Enyimba FC, on a two-year contract.
George, a legend of Nigeria’s men’s senior national team, made 62 appearances for the Super Eagles in an illustrious playing career that lasted up to fifteen years.
He was a key member of the glorious era that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and represented the country at two FIFA World Cups, the 1994 and 1998 editions.
Tidesports source reports that at club level, George won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1995 and went on to play for Real Betis, RCD Mallorca, and Ipswich Town.
His first official game as Enyimba head coach will be the CAF Confederation Cup’s second preliminary round fixture against Senegalese side, Diambers FC in mid-October.
Speaking to Enyimba’s media immediately after putting pen to paper, George said, “I have to say it’s a great opportunity for the club to have this confidence in me.
“I want to thank the chairman, the members of the board, and the supporters for even thinking about me. On my own part, I will be here to just work and do the job. It’s never going to be easy but I’m here to work and make the team win.”
Chairman of Enyimba, Felix Anyansi Agwu, stated that the arrival of George represents a new chapter for the club.
“I believe that the time has come for us as a club to open up a new chapter, a chapter that will showcase the many hardwork that has been going on behind the scene and usher in lots of success.
“For us to have engaged a coach like Finidi George who is coming from Europe is a clear statement of intent about our aspirations,” Agwu said.
Arteta Sees Light For Arsenal
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he sees a bright future for the club despite suffering their worst start to a season for 67 years.
The Gunners climbed off the bottom of the Premier League table with their first goal and first points of the campaign by beating Norwich 1-0 last weekend.
However, Arteta’s position is still under scrutiny ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Burnley after spending £150 million ($207 million) on new players during the transfer window.
The Spaniard claimed after beating Norwich he had enjoyed the “best 10 days of his career in this industry” during an international break when his side was rock bottom of the table.
And Arteta was equally optimistic on where Arsenal are headed with all six of his summer signings aged 23 or under.
“I’m telling you I’m very positive most of the time. I’ve seen the light and I can see bright lights,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“There can be bumps in the road within that light, but I can see a lot of light.”
Arteta is also hopeful the criticism his squad suffered after defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City will only serve to make them stronger.
“It’s tough because it hurts, because you want to see something different. But what you want is not always what happens,” he added.
“Things happen for a reason and maybe what is happening had to happen and it’s going to be really good for the club and really good for myself and everybody experiencing that situation. We have to believe that.”
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