The Group D contingent of USA, Argentina, Germany and Egypt mustered a grand total of seven goals in their six matches, hardly a brand of scintillating attacking play guaranteed to bring crowds to their feet. However, the 56,050 spectators who followed the games in Enschede and Emmen could not complain of poor value for their gate money, as they were treated to displays by once-in-a-generation talents such as Lionel Messi and Freddy Adu, and witnessed surprise package USA unexpectedly outperform their supposedly superior rivals.
1. USA, 7 points
Coach Sigi Schmid's men opened in sensational style against pre-tournament favourites Argentina, seeing off the South Americans by the only goal of the game for a genuinely shock result. In-form right-back Marvell Wynne supplied the pinpoint cross for Chad Barrett to head home the early winner and send confidence levels in the camp soaring.
The US dominated their meeting with Germany for more than an hour, raining shots on their opponents' goal in response to Benny Feilhaber's urgent promptings, but the ball refused to cross the line. The Europeans wrested control from their tiring opponents in the last quarter of the match, and the Americans were not ungrateful to avoid defeat and settle for a goalless draw at the end of the day.
The situation ahead of the final group match against Egypt was clear enough: victory would preserve a chance of winning the group and securing a more favourable draw in the last sixteen. Schmid took a risk with his starting line-up and rested a number of regulars, including players on a yellow card such as Wynne and Eddie Gaven. The gamble paid off as the USA defeated the North Africans 1-0 to seal top spot in the group without conceding a goal in three matches. Next opponents Italy will have their work cut out unpicking the solid US defence in their last sixteen meeting in Enschede.
2. Argentina, 6 points
Whether due to nervousness or the pressure attached to their billing as favourites, Argentina took time to settle in the group phase. Coach Francisco Ferraro raised eyebrows with his selection for the opener against the USA, leaving starlet Lionel Messi on the bench for the first half, but the move backfired as the South Americans proved unable to overturn their opponents' early lead.
However, the squad is bristling with talent and began to show something of its true potential against Egypt. Barcelona prodigy Messi started the game and repaid his coach's faith with the opening goal and an outstanding overall display in a 2-0 victory. Argentina finally demonstrated their true capabilities against Germany, Messi again providing the focus for his team's fluid attacking efforts.
The South Americans created a string of presentable chances and the Germans were fortunate to come away with just a single-goal defeat. However, Argentina's penalty for not winning the group is a crunch last sixteen meeting in Emmen against South American champions Columbia, likely to be the first highlight of the knockout phase.
3. Germany, 4 points
"I want us matching the top teams," coach Michael Skibbe declared ahead of the tournament, but Germany never achieved peak form in any consistent sense during their group campaign. The Europeans opened with a 2-0 success against Egypt, but could not have complained had they gone in at half-time in arrears. But in a display symptomatic of their roller-coaster form, they maintained their shape against the tiring North Africans and sealed the points in the second half.
The German motor spluttered and popped for the first 70 minutes against the USA before finally slipping into gear in the last quarter of the match, the impressive Marcell Jansen creating havoc down the left-hand side. Nonetheless, the goalless draw flattered the Europeans. The team again failed to get going against Argentina as the South Americans swiftly assumed control and proceeded to boss the entire match. Germany still qualified as one of the best third-placed teams, and now travel to Tilburg to face China and veteran German coach Eckhard Krautzun.
4. Egypt, 0 points
Africa's second-best U-20 team ultimately proved out of their depth in Group D. Nonetheless, coach Mohamed Radwan's men were unlucky not to start the tournament with a better result than a 2-0 defeat against Germany after a genuinely promising first-half display.
The North Africans kept out Argentina for 45 minutes too, largely thanks to star keeper Hamada Shaaban, who saved the saveable throughout the tournament. However, there was no way back from a 2-0 deficit, especially as the Egyptian frontline failed to make any real impact. The two overseas based players, Mahmoud Abdelrazek and Ahmed Farag, tried their best but were capably dealt with by Argentina's clever defenders.
Egypt heads quickly went down against the USA, especially as they were reduced to 10 men for nearly an hour in searing summer heat. Egypt fell 1-0, a third defeat in three matches, and yet more proof of the old football proverb: if you don't score goals, you can't win matches.