It’s only the fourth day of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 but already a number of sides are looking to seal a second-stage berth. In fact, two of them – Spain and France – can progress if they win again, while Portugal or Korea Republic could take a significant step in that direction with victory in their meeting.
For United States, Ghana, Nigeria and Cuba, all defeated in their opening matches, a win is the only option. Of these, Nigeria appear to have the best chance of going forward, particularly after the excellent impression they left while narrowly losing to Portugal. After an opening round with a 4.25 goal average, fans in Istanbul and Kayseri will be hoping the group's second matchday delivers more of the same.
Monday 24 June (all kick-off times are local)
France-USA (Istanbul, 18:00)
Spain-Ghana (Istanbul, 21:00)
Cuba-Nigeria (Kayseri, 18:00)
Portugal-Korea Republic (Kayseri, 21:00)
The Match of the Day
The first round winners from Group B, Portugal and Korea Republic, are both looking to close in on the quarter-finals. In their opening games, both teams played some quality football but also left their coaches with some cause for concern. Edgar Borges, for his part, lamented his side's defensive frailties: “We left happy with the three points, but I didn’t like a number of a things,” the Portugal coach said. "We made mistakes at the back that we cannot afford to make."
Similarly, Lee Kwangjong, coach of Korea Republic, had reason to demand more from his players. “They started nervously, although they improved as the game wore on. I’m not happy with their performance; I know we can do better.”
The Other Highlights
Of course, part of the reason both the Portuguese and the South Koreans were made to suffer was down to the quality of their rivals. Consequently, Nigeria and Cuba will not let their heads drop and will hold nothing back in the knowledge that another reverse could spell elimination for the defeated side. While both teams are physically imposing, the Africans have experience on their side – as well as the fine form of their captain Abdul Ajagun.
In a tough Group A, the situation is marginally clearer after emphatic performances by France and Spain. The former will be hoping to build on their good start, confident in both the defensive solidity and finishing skills of their midfield as they aim to delight the Turkish fans again with their celebratory dances. Meanwhile, USA, who fell to Spain in their opener, are expected to keep faith with their high-tempo passing game which, at times, caused the Spanish defence problems.
Unsurprisingly, Spain were one of the most eye-catching teams in the opening games, and they will again be looking to the in-form duo of Jese and Gerard Deulofeu. Facing them will be a wounded Ghana side that know they have no margin for error if they are to become a two-time world champion in the category.
The Player to Watch
Kang Sangwoo (Korea Republic)
The diminutive South Korean striker still plays for the Kyunghee University team, but already appears to have enough experience to lead Lee Kwangjong’s side. Player of the Tournament at the last AFC U-19 Championship, when he scored two goals, he powered his side to victory against Cuba in Kayseri. Despite not finding the target himself in the first game, his precise passing allowed Ryu Seyungwoo to grab the opener, while his pace attacking from out wide caused no end of headaches for the Cuban rearguard.
Four players who will take to the turf this Monday have scored twice in Turkey and emerged as candidates for top scorer award. One of these is Nigeria skipper Abdul Ajagun, who became the 13th player to hit the back of the net in two editions of the competition, having also been on target at Colombia 2011). Others include Portugal’s Bruma (Sporting) and Spanish duo Jese (Real Madrid) and Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona).
Great game yesterday against USA! First three important points to get us on the road to winning the World Cup! Team Photo! pic.twitter.com/kMrCNo0dRF
Gran partido ayer contra EEUU! Primeros 3 puntos importantes para llegar a conquistar el Mundial! Foto del equipo! pic.twitter.com/kMrCNo0dRF
— gerard deulofeu (@gerardeulofeu) June 22, 2013