Friday is judgement day in Groups C and D of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, as the eight sides weigh up their chances of gaining a place in the Round of 16. For some the margin of error is all too small, while others have considerably more room for manoeuvre.
Needing just another point to progress, Colombia, Greece and Paraguay are the teams who are best placed, while virtually all the other sides need to pick up three points if they are to avoid having to rely on results elsewhere.
The one exception is pre-tournament favourites Mexico, who could well go out even if they win their final game.
The match of the day
With every reason to be pleased with themselves after respectively earning a 1-1 draw with Colombia and a 3-0 defeat of El Salvador, Australia and Turkey had the smiles wiped from their faces in the second round of games. While the Young Socceroos are not accustomed to shining at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, having gone 12 matches without a win in the competition since beating Brazil in 2003, their solid showing against the Colombians and the early lead they took against the Salvadoreans suggested they might finally be on their way to the last 16. Nevertheless, two first-half goals from the Central Americans were all it took to send the Aussies back to the drawing board and leave them with no option but to win their last match to stay alive in the tournament.
As for the hosts, a draw may be enough to take them through, and even if they lose they could still advance as one of the best third-placed sides. Even so, there is no question of Feyyaz Ucar and his players settling for anything less than a win, if only to repay the home fans for the enthusiastic support they have given them so far. A Turkey win coupled with a draw or defeat for Colombia against El Salvador would mean they will play their round of 16 game in Trabzon.
The other highlights
Buoyed by their defeat of the hosts, Group C leaders Colombia will be out to seal first place when they take on an El Salvador side full of belief after their first win on grass in a FIFA competition. Having broken their duck, La Selecta now have designs on a place in the last 16.
Beaten in both their games to date, albeit undeservedly, Mexico’s hopes of reaching the knockout stage are slim to say the least. Not only must El Tri win against Mali and win big, they have to rely on results in other groups going their way to squeeze through as one of the best third-placed teams. With two points from two games, the Africans are slightly better placed. Greece and Paraguay, the other two teams in the section, are sure to progress if they draw their game. The group winners will face a third-placed side from Group B, E or F, while the runners-up will take on the top team in Group E.
The player to watch
Jherson Vergara (COL)
Class act Juan Quintero may have grabbed all the headlines in the Colombian press with his stunning winner against Turkey on Tuesday, but the performance of Jherson Vergara in the centre of defence had much to do with Los Cafeteros’ triumph. Always in the right place at the right time, the centre-half was commanding in the air and timed his tackles to perfection, helping to keep the Turkish forwards from bearing down on Cristian Bonilla’s goal. Vergara was also one of Colombia’s most potent attacking weapons against the hosts, pushing forward whenever they hit on the break and posing an aerial threat at corners and free-kicks. The stopper’s all-round skills have already won over AC Milan, who recently signed him from Universitario Popayan.
0 - Mexico’s points total after their two Group D matches, the worst start they have ever made in their 12 appearances in the competition. Zero is also the likely number of Mexican fans who would have envisaged a group-phase elimination for a generation that won the last FIFA U-17 World Cup and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. The misfiring Mexicans have one last opportunity to turn their ailing campaign around.