- Zambia beat Portugal in Group C opening match
- Iran and Uruguay secure hard-fought 1-0 victories over Costa Rica and Italy respectively
- Japan fight back to beat South Africa 2-1
Group C: Zambia 2-1 Portugal | Iran 1-0 Costa Rica
Group D: South Africa 1-2 Japan | Italy 0-1 Uruguay
A formidable trident
Zambia’s three-pronged strike force of Patson Daka, Edward Chilufya, and Fashion Sakala accounted for all but two of the 13 goals the Junior Chipolopolo racked up at the 2017 CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations. Nevertheless it was only after Daka was stretchered off with a head injury three minutes before half-time in their meeting with Portugal that the Zambian front line began to show what it can do, with Chilufya pulling the Africans level on 51 minutes and Sakala grabbing the winner 14 minutes from time.
Japan show their stature
Aside from goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto, who stands 5’9 (1.75m) tall, the entire South Africa starting XI against Japan on Sunday all measured below 5’7 (1.70m), with Sibongake Mbatha the shortest of them all at 5’1 (1.56m). Though Amajita – as South Africa’s U-20s are known – showed they had a head for heights by taking the lead against a side that did not concede at all during the Asian qualifiers, they eventually came off second best. As fate would have it, Japan’s youngest and shortest player, the 15-year-old Takefusa Kubo (height: 5’6 (1.67m)), played an instrumental part in his side’s comeback win, teeing up Ritsu Doan for the winner.
More penalty woes for De la Cruz
Uruguay’s Nicolas de la Cruz missed with a Panenka-style penalty in his side's opening match at the South American U-20 Championship in Venezuela, a mishap that did not prevent them from going on to win the competition. Undeterred, De la Cruz stepped up to the spot again when the Uruguayans were awarded a 43rd-minute penalty against Italy. And once again, he was to be denied, with Andrea Zaccagno keeping out what was a more conventional effort on goal. The South Americans showed their powers of recovery once more, however, kicking on to collect a crucial three points.
“Our U-17 team reached their World Cup, we qualified for Korea Republic 2017 and our senior team is on the way to booking their place at the World Cup in Russia. It all goes to show how much our country has developed in terms of football.” Iran coach Amirhossein Peiravani reacts to their first U-20 World Cup win since 1977
Wednesday 24 May