Portugal edge Argentina in incredible shoot-out
© AFP

Portugal staged an incredible recovery during a shoot-out to eliminate Argentina and reach the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. After 120 goalless minutes, the Iberians trailed 3-1 on penalties, meaning they needed convert their last two attempts and hope the South Americans missed theirs just to take it to sudden death. And that is exactly what happened thanks to the reflexes of Mika, who went on to save his third penalty and clinch a 5-4 victory for Portugal.

It was a breathtaking conclusion to what had been a dull evening in Cartagena. It began with Nelson Oliveira having two half-chances with which he failed to please the pro-Portugal crowd in the opening ten minutes. First, he shot two yards wide after racing on to a long ball, and then he turned swiftly inside the box but failed to keep his low drive on target.

Ilidio Vale's side had a much better opportunity on 16 minutes. A long ball split the Argentina defence, and Caetano outsprinted his markers to reach it. The No11 carried it into the area and unleashed a powerful shot, which was heading into the roof of the net until Esteban Andrada acrobatically pushed it over.

Argentina threatened moments later. From a free-kick just outside the box, Erik Lamela curled the ball narrowly over the bar, much to the relief of goalkeeper Mika.

Portugal had the better of the player during the remainder of the period, but Sergio Oliveira, Luis Martins, Danilo and Caetano were all let down by their finishing.

Soon after the restart, Facundo Ferreyra, sliding it at the back post, was just inches away from connecting with a Lamela free-kick. It was to be the No9's last involvement, with Juan Iturbe coming on in his place on the hour.

Almost instantly, the diminutive playmaker had contributed to Mika having two dodgy moments.
Iturbe skipped past an opponent and though his shot from the edge of the box went straight towards the Portugal No1, he fumbled it before it dropped wide for a corner. Mika then flapped at a cross from the Porto player, but got away with conceding a corner.

Andrada was then twice responsible for keeping the deadlock intact, saving superbly from a Sergio Oliveira free-kick before repelling a Nelson Oliveira piledriver.

There was very little action thereafter, with Argentina having the better of the possession but failing to get enough men in their opponents' box. In injury time, though, Nicolas Tagliafico tricked his way past three adversaries and into the Portugal area, but his shot from a mightily tight angle was easily gathered by Mika.

Extra time was largely void of action, with both sides evidently exhausted. And when Danilo and Roderick misses gave Argentina a two-goal cushion in the shoot-out, it appeared the six-time champions were on their away into the last four. Mika nevertheless denied Gonzalez Pires and Ruiz to help take it into sudden death, and after Sergio scored, the Portugal No1 flung himself to his right to repel Tagliafico's effort.

Argentina's quest for a seventh FIFA U-20 World Cup title was over. Portugal's mission for a third will continue on Wednesday against the France-Nigeria victors in Medellin.