Cuevas denies France, boosts US
© AFP

A late goal from substitute Daniel Cuevas secured USA a 1-1 draw with France and denied Les Bleuets early qualification for the last 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Cuevas struck five minutes from time in a tight, tense match that looked to have been decided by two penalties: one scored by Yaya Sanogo, the other saved by Alphonse Areola.

There was little to separate the sides in the first half, and the best of the efforts emanated from a US defensive mistake, which Sanogo snatched upon to force Cody Cropper into an alert save. At the other end, it took until injury time for the first meaningful shot on goal to be registered, with Areola able to parry clear from Luis Gil’s 14-yard drive.

The game did finally spark to life two minutes into the second half, though, when France earned a penalty after Javan Torre mistimed a tackle on Dimitri Foulquier just inside the area. Sanogo stepped up and, though his penalty was not the most convincing and allowed Cropper to get a touch, the US keeper could not prevent the ball slipping inside his right-hand post. The match seemed destined to become a tale of two penalties, in fact, with the second seing Cropper’s opposite number come out on top.

Mario Lemina was penalised for a clip on Mario Rodriguez but, again, the kick was not the most powerful or well placed, and this time Areola made the save. Buoyed by that escape, France very nearly doubled their lead with a stunning 25-yard shot from Jean Christophe Bahebeck that left the crossbar shuddering.

However, USA would not accept defeat and with five minutes remaining they got their reward. Cuevas was the hero, smashing home left-footed after France failed to deal with an indirect free-kick delivered low into the box.

The goal leaves the US on one point in Group A, three behind France and two adrift of Spain, who face Ghana in the section’s later match.