Colombian hosted tournament reaching dramatic end.
The Semi Finals take place on August the 17th as France, Brazil, Portugal and Mexico look to make it all the way to the final.
The Round of 16 was very much to the book. There were no real upsets, though there were some close shaves. Spain were taken all the way to penalties by a talented South Korean side who held out for 120 minutes. The penalty shootout seemed a step too far for the Asian team as they lost 7-6 with Chelsea’s new signing Oriol Romeu scoring Spain’s final penalty.
Colombia also made it difficult for themselves as they gave away a single goal lead against Costa Rica, before coming back to win in normal time. A late James Rodriguez penalty in injury time saw the hosts through. Mexico struggled to break down Cameroon in their Round of 16 tie and went 1-0 to a fantastic strike by Patrick Ohandza with only 10 minutes left. The lead did not last long and Mexico eventually won in a shootout, with the Africans failing to convert a single penalty.
The Quarter Finals produced some exciting ties; Brazil vs Spain, Mexico vs Colombia, France vs Nigeria, and Argentina vs Portugal. The Argentines were denied a penalty in the first half when the ball struck the arm of Pele in the penalty area. He seemed to move his hand towards the ball and another referee on another day may well have given the decision. Juan Manuel Iturbe had Argentina’s best opportunity with a great 30 yard strike that was fumbled to safety by the Portuguese ‘keeper. Portugal again struggled to find goals, a problem that has nagged at them throughout the tournament. The match went to penalties with Argentina taking a 3-1 lead after 3 penalties each. However, they missed three of their next four while Portugal converted all of theirs giving them a 5-4 victory. Argentina will be devastated by their exit while Portugal seem to be showing that goals are overrated in football.
Colombia and Mexico met in a match that would be the biggest test for the host nation. A huge crowd in gathered in Bogota for the Quarter Final but it was Mexico who took the lead. Erick Torres converted a penalty for Mexico after a contentious challenge in the box. Colombia pressed for an equaliser and were eventually rewarded on the hour mark when Duvan Zapata’s speculative effort slipped through the legs of Jose Rodriguez in the Mexican goal. However, Mexico were not deterred and substitute Edson Rivera headed his team back in to the lead. He secured the victory with only 2 minutes of normal time remaining with another shot from distance. The ball swerved rapidly with great force behind it and caught the keeper out, slamming into the net.
Potential dark horses of the tournament France progressed after beating an impressive Nigeria side. The Africans dominated their group and were never really threatened by England in the Round of 16 despite only winning by a single goal. After a lackluster first half, Alexandre Lacazette gave the French the lead in the 50th minute after some poor Nigerian defending allowed him in behind the defence, upon which he dispatched the ball into the back of the net. Nigeria managed to equalise in the 93rd minute through Bright Ejike’s header. France managed two goals in the first half of extra time, a delightful lob from captain Gueida Fofana was followed by Lacazette rounding the ‘keeper to give the French one foot in the final. Ejike’s second came within the last 10 minutes after he deflected the ball in to the goal from an offside position, but Nigeria could not find another and it was France who progressed.
The tie of the round took place in Pereira as Brazil faced Spain in the most prestigious match-up the tournament has thrown together so far. Willian tapped Brazil into the lead after an effort from Henrique rattle the crossbar. His effort was cancelled out by Brazilian-born Rodrigo who drew the Spaniards level with a near post header in the second half, taking the game to extra time. In the 100th minute Dudu of Cruzeiro ventured in from the left, playing a neat give-and-go with Henrique before the slotting the ball in to the net. However, just 2 minutes later Alvaro Vazquez gambled and ran in at the back post, turning Carles Planas left footed delivery into the goal unmarked. In the penalty shootout Gabriel was the hero for Brazil, saving penalties from Jordi Amat and Vazquez to give A Seleção the victory.
The Brazilians face another tough test against Mexico in their Semi Final whilst France will hope to exploit Portugal’s lack of goals in the other tie. However, it will not be an easy game for France as the Portuguese are still yet to concede a single goal in the tournament.
Read more from Tom at his excellent blog Purple Patch