Though Uruguay and New Zealand both picked up draws in their opening Group B encounters against Portugal and Cameroon respectively, their performances were such that major improvement is required if they wish to go far here at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011. Even so, three points from 2 August’s clash in Cali would go a long way towards securing a place in the knockout stages.
Far from impressive against the Lusitanians, Uruguay were reliant on individual efforts from players such as captain Diego Polenta and Cesar Teixeira to create their best chances. However, coach Juan Verzeri will expect the return of Adrian Luna, missing on Saturday through suspension, to give his side more zip in attacking areas. Yet La Celeste remain stronger at the back than going forward, as evidence by their displays when finishing runners-up in this year’s South American U-20 Championship.
In the New Zealand camp, the somewhat fortunate nature of their draw against Cameroon had coach Chris Milicich smiling broadly in the post-match press conference. The next challenge for the Kiwis is to build on that point, their first in the competition having lost all three games and scored just once on their only previous outing at Canada 2007. Milicich will also be hoping for a repeat display from keeper Stefan Marinovic, in inspirational form against the African side.
6 – The goalless draw against the Portuguese was Uruguay’s sixth in FIFA U-20 World Cup history, a record they share with Brazil. In the Brazilians’ defence, however, they have played 41 more matches than their neighbours at the finals of this competition.
“The key was to avoid defeat, so starting with a draw was important. I think we’re going to find things easier now, because we’re more used to playing teams like Portugal and Uruguay. They might be the favourites, but they’re going to have to play well to beat us,” New Zealand coach Chris Milicich.