USA are through to the last 16 of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with a game to spare after a comprehensive 4-0 win over hosts New Zealand at Auckand's North Harbour Stadium. The margin of victory in no way flattered Tab Ramos's impressive side, who became the first side to advance to the knockout phase thanks to a brace from Rubio Rubin either side of goals from Emerson Hyndman and Paul Arriola.
The Americans were the more accomplished side from the very start and the warning signs were there for New Zealand when Arriola forced Oli Sail into an fine save inside five minutes. From the resultant corner, the deadlock was broken, with Rubin converting from a matter of centimetres after Bradford Jamieson IV had turned a Matthew Miazga header towards goal.
The Junior All Whites looked vulnerable every time the US attacked and had Sail to thank for keeping them in contention when he pulled off a tremendous save to tip away Cameron Carter-Vickers' curling effort. But the Kiwi keeper soon went from hero to villain. With 12 minutes until half-time, he spilled a seemingly routine through ball under pressure from Rubin, allowing Hyndman to gleefully take advantage with a low shot into the now-partially guarded net.
Sail went some way to atoning for his error two minutes into the second period when he denied the lively Rubin, but USA's pressure was unrelenting and it was no surprise when they moved out of sight. The goal that made sure of the points was a thing of beauty too, with Paul Arriola racing through on to a fine pass from Gedion Zelalem and drilling home an inch-perfect right-foot shot off the inside of the right-hand post.
New Zealand did carve out some late chances to claim a consolation, the best of which was headed wide by captain Bill Tuiloma. But their night of misery was rounded off with six minutes left to play when Rubin capitalised on defensive confusion to sneak in between Jesse Edge and Adam Mitchell and convert from close range.
The hosts will now hope for a big win in their final Group A match against Myanmar to keep alive their hopes of advancing, while USA can enjoy their encounter with Ukraine safe in the knowledge that their place is assured.