THE DAY REPLAYED: After nine days of intense competition, the number of teams vying for glory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 has now been whittled down to 16. Croatia, Uruguay and Uzbekistan all advanced from Group F, while in Group E, Iraq and Chile booked their places in the next round.
The Croatians, fielding a team that included nine fringe players making their first starts of the tournament, handed New Zealand their third defeat in a row. The Uruguayans, meanwhile, comfortably saw off the challenge of Uzbekistan.
Egypt waited until the final 11 minutes of their encounter with England to breathe life into their qualifying chances, but goals from Trezeget and Ahmed Hassan were not quite enough to snatch a place in the last 16. It is therefore Ghana, who qualified ahead of Egypt by virtue of having scored one more goal, who will lock horns with Portugal in Kayseri on Wednesday. As for the English, they recorded their 17th match without a victory in the competition.
Saturday’s results also clarified matters for certain teams whose fates were dependent on the outcome of the final set of fixtures, such as Korea Republic, who will now take on Colombia, and Mexico, who face Spain.
Uzbekistan 0-4 Uruguay (Antalya - Goals: Gino Acevedo 38, Nicolas Lopez 47, Giorgian De Arrascaeta 64, Ruben Bentancourt 77)
Croatia 2-1 New Zealand (Bursa - Goals: Stipe Perica 11, Ante Rebic 75; Louis Fenton 84 pen)
In the run-up to New Zealand’s final group match, it is unlikely that their supporters or indeed the tournament statisticians would have been getting too carried away with the Oceania side’s performances at Turkey 2013. After two matches, the Kiwis had registered the grand total of zero points, zero goals and zero cards.
In the end, however, they were saved from the dubious honour of being the only team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup not to score by Louis Fenton, who found the net from the penalty spot against Croatia. And while departing the contest without having a single player cautioned would have offered some small consolation, Luke Adams’ booking put paid to that ambition as well.
Attacking assembly line
National U-20 teams often take inspiration from their senior counterparts when it comes to their style of play. Uruguay, with a front line that includes Ruben Bentancourt – who bears a striking resemblance to Edinson Cavani – are no exception. Boasting flowing locks, a headband and a nose for goal, the young lookalike scored to make it 4-0 in favour of his country versus Uzbekistan on Saturday.
The only significant difference between the two forwards appears to be the way in which they send messages to their parents, as while the younger man unveiled a t-shirt bearing the words “Te amo mama” (“I love you, Mum”), Cavani recently urged his father to stop talking to the media about his potential transfer from Napoli. “My Dad has been talking about Real Madrid? I’d like to point out that those are his words, not mine. I’ve asked my parents a thousand times not to comment on these matters. That kind of thing can only do harm,” he said.
South American success
The global football community let out a collective gasp in February upon learning that neither Argentina nor Brazil, who have eleven FIFA U-20 World Cup titles between them, had done enough at the South American Youth Championship to earn a place at Turkey 2013.
A few months down the line, it has become apparent that the reason for their absence could simply come down to the formidable opposition they faced at the qualifying tournament. All four CONMEBOL representatives have now qualified for the second round, with Chile and Uruguay joining Colombia and Paraguay, who qualified on Friday.
Drawn against England, Chile and Egypt in Group E, the Iraqis are unlikely to have attracted many bets on them reaching the knockout phase. But the AFC side have grown in stature at the event, coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with England and turning their match against Egypt around to win 2-1.
The fairytale then continued in their third match, as they overcame La Rojita 2-1 to claim top spot in the section. The result was a welcome birthday present for Mohammed Jabbar Arebat, who turned 20 on the day of the match. The defender even had a hand in his team’s decisive 67th minute goal, starting off a successful counter-attack from his own half.
The stat of the Day
9 – The number of goals conceded by Uzbekistan to Uruguay in three matches, all competitions combined. Prior to suffering a resounding 4-0 reverse in Group F today, the Asian representatives had already lost 3-0 and 2-0 to La Celeste, at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009 and the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2011 respectively.
2 July (all local times)
Round of 16