SANDRA AIGNER / AIPS* in SHARJAH: Cote d’Ivoire woke up far too late in Sharjah to let Argentina sneak to a 2-1 victory which propelled them into the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
The South Americans were two goals up in just over half an hour then sat complacently on their lead and lived dangerously in the closing stages after conceding a contentious penalty for handball. They play champions Mexico in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Right from the start there were dangerously few signs of any compact or well-organised defensive work from Cote d’Ivoire.
The African champions had also suffered from injuries and the absence of suspended midfielder Junior Ahissan.
Argentina, by contrast, began with their usual attacking aplomb. A long anged crossfield pass from halfwayline was collected by Joaquin Ibanez, just in line with the Cote d’Ivoire defence, to open the scoring in the fifth minute.
Within half a hour Rodrigo Moreira touched the ball in fromt close range after Cote d’Ivoire failed to defend a right-wing corner.
After the break, the Ivorians pulled themselves, their defence and their game together.
Substitute Chris Bedia went past three Argentines but hit his shot too close to goalkeeper Augusto Batalla.
Finally, in the 80th minute, captain Franck Kessie converted a penalty after German referee Wolfgang Stark awarded a penalty against Leandro Vega for stopping a cross with his arm even though he had his back to play.
Cote d’Ivoire threw everything into attack in the last 10 minutes but without seriously troubling the massed Argentinian defence and keeper Batalla whose handling was impeccable.
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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