Portugal edge Kiwis to top group
© AFP

Portugal have finished top of a tightly-contested Group B, defeating New Zealand 1-0 in Cali at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

With the Round of 16 on the line for all teams in Group B, Portugal and New Zealand began their match with tentative approach – neither side willing to commit too many numbers forward. However, a solitary first-half strike from left-back Mario Rui was all Portugal needed to progress at these finals.

Portugal had the first chance of the match when Alex fired a long-range bending shot over the crossbar. The No14 was at it again eight minutes later, with a shot from inside the area, but New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic collected the effort.

New Zealand then came close as Dakota Lucas nearly connected with a cross in the area, but Portugal keeper Mika did well to keep things level. The chance seemed to liven Portugal’s attacking displays, however, and successive chances from Nelson Oliveira and Caetano had the Iberian’s knocking on the door.

And with 30 minutes gone, Portugal broke the deadlock as Oliveira provided a fine through ball to left-back Rui, who beat his defender in the area to slot a crosswise shot past Marinovic.

With few chances in the first half, the Kiwis began to search for an equaliser with more conviction after the break. The Oceania side came closest through substitute Ethan Galbraith on 63 minutes, but Mika was quick to deny the striker’s pacey shot. 

Portugal were met by a sturdy Kiwi defence, and as time ticked down, New Zealand were unable to really test the Portuguese net, attacking in unorganised fashion. Defender Anthony Hobbs desperately tried his luck from distance on 77 minutes, and multiple fluffed attempts in the area, ended the Kiwis evening.

New Zealand must now await to learn their progression fate, as they hope to secure a best third-place team spot in the Round of 16, while Portugal and Cameroon have booked their knockout round places.