The United States produced a superb first-half performance to see off the challenge of Cote d’Ivoire and move into the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003. Goals from Justin Mapp and Ed Johnson did the damage at the Al Maktoum stadium in Dubai against an African side that had goalkeeper Drissa Toure sent off just before the break. The Americans now face Argentina in Abu Dhabi on 12 December.
Most of the crowd had dispersed but the entertainment just kept on flowing for the second match of the day in Dubai. Cote d’Ivoire were fastest off the blocks and Kassiaty Labi thought he had scored with an arrowed shot towards the far corner. But Drew Moor, running backwards, somehow, miraculously, cleared the ball off the line.
The United States came straight back and Ed Johnson, fresh from scoring a brace against Korea Republic, broke through to fire low and true but inches wide of the far post (5).
Two minutes later, though, the Americans were ahead following a similar move. From the very first minute, the Cote d’Ivoire defence had been pushing high up the pitch trying to catch the pacy U.S. forwards offside, but it was proving a deeply unwise tactic. Justin Mapp, latching onto another through ball, simply waltzed in on goal to slot the ball cleanly into the corner of the net (1-0, 7).
The Africans continued to cause problems with their excellent technique. Captain Jean-Jacques Gosso screwed wide from just inside the area (15), before American keeper Steve Cronin pulled off a stupendous save low down to his left to fingertip round the post a stunning Adolph Tohoua strike (22). P>Labi tried his luck again, cutting in from the right to shoot with his left foot, but his effort was deflected agonisingly onto the roof of the net. From the resulting corner, Tohoua blasted over (27). Zoko then forced another save from Cronin as Mama Ouattara’s boys just kept on coming (31).
But the Americans were also looking dangerous and Freddy Adu, playing on the left wing, broke through from a slide rule Bobby Convey pass, skipped past Drissa Toure before being brought down as the keeper followed through with his challenge. Toure was shown yellow and Johnson calmly side-footed the penalty wide to his right to take his goal tally to four in the finals (2-0, 43).
Arouna should have pulled one back for the Africans immediately but after controlling beautifully, he lifted his shot onto the top of the net (43).
Things went from bad to worse for Cote d’Ivoire. Another through ball pierced the offside trap and with Johnson haring down on goal, Toure, bravely coming out to smother the ball, handled the ball just outside the area. He was shown a second yellow and then a red (45).
With Cote d’Ivoire down to 10 men, the second period was a completely different game. The United States sat back, content with their two goals, while the Africans, with heads slightly dropped, seemed to be playing with one foot on the plane.
an Ouehi, bouncing forward from right-back, shot over (50) and Gosso struck a 25-yard free kick hard and low but straight at Cronin (63). Antonin Koutouan, on as a substitute, won himself a gilt-edged opportunity after charging down a clearance but with just the keeper to beat, chipped his effort high over the bar (72).
After soaking up the pressure, Johnson should have made the game safe and lifted himself to the outright lead in the scoring charts but the Dallas Burn forward, once again after going clean through, shaved the far post with his low shot (73).
The last 15 minutes were played at walking pace before the Cote d’Ivoire team fell to their knees at the end exhausted after an injury meant they played part of the second half with nine on the pitch.
Ouattara was generous in defeat.
“I’m very disappointed but that’s the way the game goes,” he said with a sad smile. “We had a couple of favourable opportunities but at the end it was virtually mission impossible. The Americans were better and whoever beats them will go a long way.”
“The first half was a great game of football and a fine advertisement for the game,” added Rongen. “I thought the Ivory Coast were very unlucky not to score. We got the goal and the penalty and then the sending off changed the complexion of the match.
“We are looking forward to playing Argentina – all American players thrive on measuring themselves against the best - and with four wins and players like Cavenaghi, they are probably the team to beat.”