THE DAY REPLAYED - Mexico's Golden Generation, champions of the last U-17 World Cup, announced their serious U-20 intentions with an exciting 2-1 win over fancied Portugal to surge to the top of Group C and into the second round. The Portuguese remain on three points, now even with debutantes Gambia, who made history with their first goal and points in the tournament after a 1-0 victory over fellow first-timers New Zealand. Meanwhile, in Group A, the hosts fell to their second defeat on the trot, losing to Austria 1-0, while Chile tallied three times in the second half to beat 10-man Congo and also reach the knockout rounds.
Great show from Gio
In front of a boisterous, sell-out crowd in suddenly football-mad Toronto, Mexico's diminutive superstar-in-the-making Giovanni Dos Santos set a previously sluggish match alight after being dragged down in the box just minutes after the break. The classy Barcelona youth, dubbed the new Ronaldinho and looking more like the Brazilian maestro and his club teammate every day, then stepped up to bury the spot kick.
Filled with confidence against the two-time U-20 champions, El Tri deservedly pushed their lead six minutes after the hour mark when substitute Carlos Barrera blasted a half-volley into the back of the net from 10 yards out. With the match surprisingly by the scruff of the neck, Mexico coach Jesus Ramirez took out the delightful Dos Santos in the 85th minute to a standing ovation, and as if to show his importance to the CONCACAF side, Portugal pulled one back moments later from Antunes' powerful 20 yard free kick.
All-in-all it was a well-played match between two high-quality sides, with Mexico in particular proving that they are serious contenders to lift the World Youth trophy on 22 July. Up next, they will face the point-less New Zealanders, who suffered a slender defeat to the adventurous Baby Scorpions of Gambia earlier in the day at the National Soccer Stadium.
In the 22nd minute, Ousmane Jallow's excellent diving header, perhaps the best of the tournament thus far, beat the Kiwi netminder to decide the match. Before the half-time whistle, the Africans should have been two up, but the man they call 'Ous' wasted a chance from seven metres and team-mate Alagie Ngum rattled the post near the half-hour mark. However, particularly in the dying minutes, the South Pacific islanders showed impressive mettle. They could have grabbed an equaliser 15 minutes from time when Gambian keeper Joseph Gomez slid well to save from Jeremy Brockie and again minutes later when Greg Draper's glancing header hit the bar. Next up, the Gambians will fight it out with the Portuguese for second place in the group.
Chilean joy, Canadian pain
The hosts played better than in their first match, but they could not generate enough in the attacking third against Austria and fell meekly to their second scoreless effort on the trot. In the blistering Edmonton heat, the chances were few and far between, but Austria hit the post in the opening period before Rubin Okotie headed the Europeans ahead two minutes after half-time.
Just after the goal, Canada's Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault looked to have equalised, but his bounding header beat the keeper but not the bar. And to the pain of the desperate, vociferous, home fans, Simeon Jackson missed a sitter in the dying minutes to leave the Canucks needing to beat Congo in their final match and hope other results go their way.
In the later contest from Commonwealth Stadium, the 600th match played in U-20 World Cup history, Congo were reduced to 10 men against Chile when Yann Kombo was sent off in the 22nd minute for a lunging two-footed tackle on Dagoberto Currimilla. The South Americans, so impressive in their opening 3-0 win against the hosts, looked out of sorts for the rest of the first half after the sending off, but recovered in a major way in the second half to claim a win by the same score.
Star Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez, who missed a wide-open goal in the first half after a dreadful giveaway by the Congo goalkeeper, made up for it by opening the scoring with a fierce low drive in the 49th minute. Nicolas Medina scored his second in as many matches with a thumping left-footer into the corner in the 75th minute, and Arturo Vidal's 25-yard curler into the side of the net was the pick of the bunch with time running out.