After the first full round of group matches at the FIFA U-20 World Cup supplied over 40 goals, the second began in similarly free-scoring fashion. June 2's four encounters, spanning Groups A and B, saw the eight teams involved share out 18 strikes – much to the joy of spectators catching the action first-hand on Kiwi soil.
Top marks for an emphatic win must go to USA, whose solid and ruthless 4-0 demolition of hosts New Zealand made the Stars and Stripes the first team guaranteed a berth in the Round of 16. Goals from Rubio Rubin (2), Emerson Hyndman and Paul Arriola did the damage in Auckland, putting Tab Ramos’ charges in the next phase with a Group A game to spare.
Myanmar 0-6 Ukraine
New Zealand 0-4 USA
Austria 2-1 Panama
Argentina 2-3 Ghana
Goal of the day
Austria 0-1 Panama, Fidel Escobar (6)
On the competition’s opening day, this spot was filled by Panama’s Jhamal Rodriguez versus Argentina and, today against Austria, Los Canaleros were at it again. This time, though, it was Fidel Escobar taking his turn to pull a strike out of the top drawer. Picking up the ball in midfield and driving forward, shaking off an opponent in the process, the muscle-bound Escobar played a neat one-two with Jesus Gonzalez before reaching the edge of the box and sending a missile flashing past Austrian keeper Tino Casali and into the top-left corner. Hardly the kind of goal you would expect from a central defender.
A super sub
Exhibiting caution aplenty and putting a priority on defence, Myanmar set out to contain Ukraine by using five defenders and two holding midfielders. Witnessing this tactical approach from the stands were some 2,000 schoolchildren who, with the strategy proving effective in a goalless first period, soon abandoned spectating in favour of chasing each other around the tribune. The half-time introduction of Valerii Luchkevych, though, changed everything. A team that had been lacking a cutting edge was suddenly able to rack up six unanswered second-half goals, serving to keep 2,000 youngsters firmly glued to their seats.
By the grace of Jaime
Though going down to a narrow defeat against Austria, Panama still required a memorable second-half performance from keeper Jaime de Gracia to prevent a much heavier reverse. Trailing 2-1 and chasing an equaliser, the concession of a 64-minute penalty was another blow for Los Canaleros. Yet after Florian Grillitsch seized the ball and shot low towards the right-hand corner, there was De Gracia to guess right and keep his side in the hunt. Two quick-fire red cards for Panama later and another penalty for Austria, this time Markus Blutsch stepping up to the spot. And despite aiming left this time the result was the same, Austria denied by De Gracia, who handed his team a sliver of hope with eight minutes still remaining.
Maybe next time
In only the sixth minute against New Zealand, USA’s Bradford Jamieson IV wheeled away as he prepared to celebrate the Stars and Stripes’ opening goal. However, with the ball about to cross the line, team-mate Rubio Rubin grabbed the final touch – and the glory. In 19 minutes’ time came another opportunity for Jamieson who, once again, fired at goal, prepared to celebrate, and saw the ball blocked by… Rubin! And while the States’ No9 later helped himself to a second strike, Jamieson’s wait to open his account goes on.
19 – Prior to the Ghana loss, this was the number of consecutive games Argentina had gone at the U-20 World Cups without defeat in open play, going all the way back to a 1-0 reverse versus USA at Netherlands 2005.
“We’ve come here to win games. I told the lads that we’ve got a very talented team, but we can’t afford to get carried away. Our first game was tough and this one wasn’t any easier. We’re very pleased to have sealed qualification,” Tab Ramos, USA coach.
Wednesday 3 June 2015 (all times are local)
Group C (Hamilton)
Qatar - Portugal, 16.00
Senegal - Colombia, 19.00
Group D (Dunedin)
Mexico - Uruguay, 16.00
Serbia - Mali, 19.00