CAIRO: After 36 matches and 115 goals, the World Cup U-20 goes into the round of 16.
Spain leads the list of top scoring teams with 13 goals followed by Venezuela and Egypt with nine goals while Brazil and Ghana came third with eight goals each.
Venezuela’s Yonathan Del Valle remained the tournament’s top scorer with four goals followed by Spain’s Aron Niguez, Fran Merida and Jose Rondon from Venezuela, and Ransford Osei and Dominic Adiyiah from Ghana with three goals each.
Most goals were scored in the second half; the highest scoring matches were Spain’s and Venezuela’s against Tahiti, each scoring eight goals in the nets of the Oceania country.
One-hundred and seventy yellow cards and nine red cards were shown; South Africa is the team with the highest number of yellow cards while Ronald Huth of Paraguay, Ramahlwe Mphahlele from South Africa and Ryan McGowan from Australia were the most penalized players receiving both yellow and red in two matches.
Italian team coach Francesco Rocca and his German counterpart Horst Hrubesch were shown the red card for continuous objections to referees’ decisions; while Horst will be on the line next match, Rocca will have to watch it from the stands.
The Nigeria-Tahiti match saw the first family suspension in history when Tahiti’s Lorenzo and Alvin Tehau received a red card each in the same game.
This World Cup witnessed the first victory for Venezuela and South Africa in a FIFA tournament, the first point for England in a U-20 World Cup, Hungary qualified to the second round for the first time in five participations, and a record for Tahiti as the team with most goals scored at in the group stage with 21 conceded goals.
Essam Abdel Moneim, famous sports columnist and chief editor of Al-Ahram Al-Riady, said that the tournament was characterized by inconsistency of teams.
“We found teams playing a very good match then a very bad one; some teams even were inconsistent during the same game with the exception of Brazil, Ghana, Uruguay and Spain, he said.
“The competition is very high in various matches, said Magdi Abdel Ghani, board member of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and a national team veteran.
Hungary, Korea Republic, Costa Rica, South Africa and Nigeria bounced back after heavy defeats to qualify to the second round while teams like Cameroon and Honduras turned down expectations after being tipped to be the tournament’s surprises with convincing first victories.
Big names like Italy and England came without their main players whose clubs refused to release in the middle of domestic seasons and consequently failed to meet expectations.
“This is not correct from the clubs. Although it isn’t compulsory, but allowing the players to come and play here and gain experience is better for them than warming the benches in their clubs, Joseph Blatter, FIFA president, told Daily News Egypt.
According to Abdel Moneim, lack of concentration at the dying minutes of the game was a common phenomenon in the tournament.
“We saw many matches whose results were decided in the last minutes and this is the result of lack of concentration from the players due to lack of experience, Abdel Moneim said.
“The matches were tactically low and were dominated by players’ over enthusiasm and eagerness to show their talents, he added.
South American teams were the phenomenon of the tournament as they all qualified to the knockout stage and presented the most organized and entertaining football in the tournament.
However, their African counterparts, although four out of five qualified, didn’t live up to expectations as they struggled to find their places in the round of 16. Although they were tipped favorites to win the title on home turf, their display on the pitch and didn’t convince followers.
Players standing out from the group stage were Andre Ayew from Ghana, who showed high technical and tactical abilities, pitting him to develop into a star player on the international football scene.
Also the Brazilian trio of Alan Kardec, Giuliano and Teixeira proved lethal in front of the goal; Aron Niguez from Spain also caught the eyes with his goals and assists.
The home team just achieved their primary objective of reaching the second round; however, they did it the hard way waiting for the last minutes of their final game against Italy to secure that ticket. The surprise draw between Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago helped as well.
In the presence of President Hosni Mubarak and 80,000 fans, the young Pharaohs started their campaign with a prestigious 4-1 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in Alexandria but left Cairo fans frustrated with a last minute 2-1 loss to Paraguay Monday before bouncing back and beating Italy 4-2 Thursday night.
While the team displayed attacking strength scoring – nine goals in three games – the defense line was vulnerable, especially in counter attacks.
“We had many alternatives in the attack line; however, two injuries for our main defenders Salah Solieman and Ahmed Hegazy left us with no much choice back in defense, Miroslav Soukup, Egyptian team coach, told Daily News Egypt.
Ahmed “Boogy Fathy, Mostafa “Afroto Mahmoud, Hossam Arafat and Ahmed Shokry engraved their names in the memory of the fans, through their decisive goals and exceptional performances, although Boogy and Shokry only played the third game.
“The team’s performance was within the expectations; we topped the group after losing to a team better than us and beating lower teams than ourselves, Abdel Moneim said.
“Fans’ support was a decisive factor for the Egyptian team; it isn’t easy for U-20 players to perform in front of more than 70,000 fans, he added.
Abdel Ghani, on the other hand, said it doesn’t matter how bad the performance was, as long as the mission was accomplished; especially in this type of competitions.
“We were very unlucky to lose in the last minute against Paraguay, but in football any team can make a surprise. The last World Cup final is an example as both teams, Italy and France, weren’t supposed to reach the final, he said.
On the organizational level, 1,500 volunteers made a remarkable effort to make sure everything is going fine, offering help to journalists and fans in the stands.
“The tournament is successful as no complaints were received by the organizing committee from any of the teams, Abdel Moneim said.
“These new and renovated stadiums are the real profit from this tournament but I hope we can keep them in this shape with professional maintenance, he added.
Swine flu rumors
During the tournament, rumors of three UAE players catching swine flu spread quickly but all proved false after team officials denied the news.
Another rumor spread shortly that South African goalkeeper Tawfiq Saly had swine flu after being transferred to an Alexandria hospital suffering from fever. Medical tests were negative.
Although it was the first time ever for the Oceania nation to play in an international football tournament, Tahiti failed to leave a good impression, conceding 21 goals and scoring none.
“After Australia left Oceania to join Asia, they developed by playing against better teams while we are getting worse, Lionel Charbonnier, Tahiti’s coach, told Daily News Egypt.
“We now saw how the high level of football is; these players have only played 15 matches this season and they aren’t even professional players, he said.
He added that Tahiti needs to work on developing its local competition, increasing the number of matches and turning the players into professionals.
Nigerian fan perspective
Issa Moussa, a Nigerian fan accompanying his team, believes that although the “Super Eagles struggled, they will win the tournament eventually, because “an African team must win this tournament.
“We have prepared very well but the referees are rubbishing the game and ruining the whole tournament, they don’t know how to officiate, Moussa said.
“Passing cooper tests – physical fitness tests for referees – doesn’t mean that one ca
n be a referee; I can pass cooper tests, does this mean that I am a referee? FIFA needs to check on these referees, he added.