Sweden power into U17 World Cup semis

Erdal Rakip of Sweden scores past Honduras goalkeeper Cristian Hernandez
Sweden became the first side through to the semi-finals of this FIFA U17 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over underdogs Honduras in Al Ain on Friday evening.
Roland Larsson’s side shaded the opening half hour with three presentable chances created, and spurned, to the Central Americans’ one — the Hondurans’ crossbar being rattled in the second of those Swedish raids from captain Linus Wahlqvist’s bullet header.
Such profligacy at one end of the pitch proved costly at the other eight minutes from the half-time break as Honduras took a somewhat surprising lead via Brayan Velasquez’s opener. A speculative punt downfield sent an in space Velasquez scampering away after the ball. He held off Erdal Rakip’s challenge and got his shot away before Johan Ramhorn could intervene with a last-ditch, sliding tackle.

Velasquez was off balance and the angle was tight, but he still found the top corner with Honduras’ first attempt on Sweden’s goal. Honduras understandably came out for the second period eager to protect what they already had with the team just 45 minutes from a place in the last four.
Nonetheless, their staunch resistance eventually buckled on 68 minutes. Gentrit Citaku gently weighted a perfect pass through to Rakip, who calmly converted the opportunity past goalkeeper Cristian Hernandez to draw the Swedes deservedly level. Larsson decided to introduce attacking duo Anton Salestros and Carlos Strandberg into proceedings at this stage and they both played a part in Sweden’s 74th-minute winner.
Strandberg’s cross-field pass from the left flank found Salestros on the right wing, where the latter cut the ball back for Valmir Berisha. The centre was a little awkward for Berisha as it was fed in behind him. No matter though as the striker simply let the pass roll in between his legs and an impudent flick found the bottom corner of Hernandez’s net. Honduras responded and battled on bravely in the remaining minutes, but Larsson’s tournament debutants were not to be denied their spot in the semis.
They will now meet either Nigeria, whom they met previously in a 3-3 draw in Group F, or Uruguay in Dubai on Tuesday night (Kick-off: 8pm) for a place in the final. The Nigeria-Uruguay quarter-final match will take place in Sharjah on Saturday night (Kick-off: 8pm).
Honduras: Cristian Hernandez, Kevin Alvarez, Alvaro Romero (Kevin Lopez 81), Luis Santos (Captain), Anoal Hernandez, Devron Garcia, Brayan Velasquez, Christopher Alegria, Isaac Borjas (Steven Ramos 68), Rembrandt Flores, Carlos Palacios (Jorge Bodden 57). Substitutes: Fernando Cabrera, Jose Fiallos, Kenneth Hernandez, Fredy Medina, Darwin Arita, Khristian Laines, Alberth Elis.
Sweden: Sixten Mohlin, Sebastian Ramhorn, Johan Ramhorn, Noah Sonko, Linus Wahlqvist, Elias Andersson, Valmir Berisha, Erdal Rakip, Gentrit Citaku, Gustav Engvall (Viktor Nordin 83), Mirza Halvadzic (Carlos Strandberg 72). Substitutes: Jakob Bergman, Ali Suljic, Hampus Stromgren, Christer Lipovac, Linus Fridolf, Tim Erlandsson, Isak Ssewankambo.