New Zealand and USA shared the spoils 0-0 in Pachuca’s Estadio Hidalgo on Saturday, a result good enough to see both sides through to the knockout rounds from Group D. And after a drawing of lots in Mexico City, it was determined that the Americans finish second and the Kiwis come in third.
The Americans came out the sharper of the two sides, creating dangerous opportunities and working their way early and often toward the Kiwi goal. Matthew Dunn’s sizzling free-kick in the tenth minute was well handled by New Zealand goalkeeper Scott Basalaj. USA’s Alejandro Rodriguez was causing havoc on the left side, forcing the Oceania defenders into mistakes and opening up channels in attack.
USA had their first clear chance on goal in the 17th minute. Esteban Rodriguez fired in a corner-kick from the left side that was met by the head of the diving Alfred Koroma, on for the first time at Mexico 2011 as a starter, but the effort went over the bar. Seconds later, rangy captain Marc Pelosi tested Basalaj, but his sliding try from close-range lacked the necessary power.
The Stars and Stripes continued to pile on the pressure as the opening period progressed, but they failed to find the breakthrough they needed. Koroma fired a tame effort wide before the last meaningful action came at the other side, Tim Payne heading his effort just inches wide after some nice approach work out left.
Even though both teams would be through with a draw, they went out in search off goals as the second half got underway. The lively Alejandro Guido raced into the box and fired a shot that Basalaj did well to tip away, and Mario Rodriguez was inches away from tapping home the rebound at the back post in the 50th minute. Payne had a decent chance minutes later up the other end, sneaking in behind a US backline that eventually caught up again and forced him into a weak effort on the turn.
The Americans suffered a blow when captain Marc Pelosi was given his marching orders after 68 minutes for tugging a Kiwi’s shirt and picking up his second yellow card. Kellyn Acosta wasn’t bothered, though, and hammered a long-range shot that very nearly gave USA the lead, but ended up being tipped over the crossbar by the goalkeeper.
In the end, the sides could not be separated and both the Americans and the Kiwis were happy enough with the draw that sent them through to the next round. USA will have to wait to learn the identity of their opponent, while New Zealand are set for a date with Japan. Uzbekistan, who beat Czech Republic in the other game in Torreon, make history by finishing top of the section in their first FIFA U-17 World Cup.