You can't beat Wellington on a good day so sang the Datsun Violets in the late 90's, and last Sunday the 14th June was one of those days. It was also the last chance Wellingtonian's would get to see the U20 World Cup in there city when Uzbekistan and Senegal met in the quarter finals.
|Uzbekistan v Senegal in Wellington on a good day - The sunset was more fun to watch than the football!|
The great weather combined with a family friendly 4:30pm kick off, bolstered the crowd to 10,258 which was only bettered in Wellington by the game involving New Zealand (a 5-1 win over Myanmar). The Uzbek fans came along and banged their drums which created a little bit of atmosphere. It was just a shame the Uzbekistan and Senegal teams didn't come to the party as they played out a game so dull that the crowd didn't even bother to try a Mexican wave and there was an audible sense of relief when Senegal's Mamadou Thiam netted in the 77th minute, as the crowd knew they wouldn't have to put up with 30 minutes of extra time.
This tournament is becoming one of two halves. The group stages were great plenty of goals, attacking football, surprises such as Fiji winning a game and Argentina getting knocked out. Then came the round of 16, these rounds are usually a bit of a let down, as teams tend to play a little more defensively as the sudden death element of the competition kicks in and 2 of the games went to penalties. The biggest surprise of this round was how well New Zealand played before losing out to a stunning piece of individual brilliance from Portugal's Gelson Martins. Unfortunately the round of 16 is a necessity with 24 & 32 team tournaments and while I believe 16 team tournaments are the ideal size (look at the European Championships up until now - although even they are going to the 24 team format) FIFA are never going to go backwards on the numbers so we will have to live with the round of 16.
The quarter finals were even more of a disappointment with only 3 goals in four games and 3 being decided by penalties. I suppose you could argue it shows how close the teams are in standard, but equally it shows how worried they were about going out. What's worrying is at this young age the players don't seem to be willing to have a go, maybe that's how they are coached or they do feel a lot of pressure on themselves. I would have hoped that this wasn't the case, while some players will be playing for their futures, these days most players at this level are already contracted to clubs and just appearing at the U20 World Cup should help their future.
The Semi-Finals are on tonight, with Brazil playing Senegal & Serbia playing Mali, so could we see an all African final? Who knows?
What I would pick is that at least one of the games will finish with a penalty shootout