France and Portugal, meanwhile, were frustrated in their attempts to join their European counterparts in the next phase after being held to draws by USA and Korea Republic respectively. Nigeria, meanwhile, boosted their prospects considerably with a resounding 3-0 victory over a Cuba side who are now staring elimination in the face.
Early front-runners have also emerged in the race to finish Turkey 2013’s top scorer, with Spain’s Jese, Portugal‘s Bruma and Nigeria’s Abdul Ajagun now leading the way with three apiece. FIFA.com reviews the action.
The Results Group A – Istanbul France 1-1 USA (Sanogo 48 pen; Cuevas 85) Spain 1-0 Ghana (Jese 13) Group B – Kayseri Cuba 0-3 Nigeria (Umar 19, 23; Ajagun 23) Portugal 2-2 Korea Republic (Aladje, Bruma 60; Ryu 45, Kim 76) Memorable Moments No penalty masterclass Any students of the art of the penalty would have been well advised to give today’s encounters a wide berth. There were three spot kicks across the early kick-offs, and every one left a great deal to be desired. Ajagun failed to even hit the target, shooting wide of the right-hand post, while USA’s Luis Gil side-footed weakly and enabled France’s Alphonse Areola to make a comfortable save low to his left. At the other end in the same match, Yaya Sanogo’s effort was barely any better, and Cody Cropper again was able to get across to make contact. With penalties, though, the end invariably justifies the means and, with Cropper unable to keep his shot out, Sanogo was able to celebrate where his fellow penalty-takers could only look despairingly to the heavens.
O’Neill bets on black Some older fans may reminisce about the day when all football boots looked the same: black, simple and unspectacular. Even more recently, black remained prevalent, with white and colourful designs only gradually creeping their way in. Now, however, it seems the traditional boot is an endangered species. France’s 1-1 draw with USA represented a spectacular example, with seemingly every player in bright, often fluorescent, footwear. Yet amid this blaze of colour there was to be found a lone traditionalist. No surprises for guessing that the player in question was a straightforward, no-nonsense defensive enforcer, with the Americans’ Shane O’Neill the man standing out from the crowd.
Balloons to beating drums The passion of Turkey’s people for their national team and favourite clubs is legendary. Today, even with the hosts nowhere to be seen on the field, a group of young fans arrived for France–USA armed with flags, red balloons and spent the entire match chanting not for the teams involved, but for Turkey. Later, however, they were to be drowned out by the inimitable sound of African drums. A band of entirely yellow-clad Ghanaians had arrived to give their team some unrelenting rhythmic backing and, even in defeat, the Black Satellites’ noisiest and most colourful supporters continued to make their presence felt.
Wrapping up for the Turkish summer In certain countries at certain times of year, long-sleeved shirts are not so much desirable as essential. Turkey is not one of those countries, and summer is certainly not that time of year. Yet despite temperatures in Kayseri reaching the mid-30s and the players sweating profusely in the stifling heat, no fewer than four of Nigeria’s players decided that a more substantial shirt was required. Whatever their thinking, the long sleeves may be staying for the Eaglets’ final group match as it was with this unexpected choice of clothing that they secured their first win and clean sheet of the tournament, beating Cuba 3-0.
The Stat of the Day 10 – So far in 2013, Spain’s record at continental and world finals – UEFA European U-21 Championship, FIFA Confederations Cup and FIFA U-20 World Cup – is played ten, won ten. In the process, this era’s dominant football power have scored 32 goals and conceded just four. The reign of Spain shows no signs of ending.