No one who followed the action in Group B at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 can have been disappointed by the football fare on offer. With entertainment, attacking play and a glut of goals, the games between Portugal, Nigeria, Korea Republic and Cuba had everything. No fewer than 21 goals hit the back of the net in six matches, making this section the most prolific of all six, and no team has racked up more so far than Portugal (10). The Iberian challengers fully lived up to their billing as favourites in the pool en route to topping the table, defeating Cuba 5-0 along the way to record the biggest victory of the group stage.
Runners-up Nigeria also impressed, demonstrating a constant desire to get forward, and only inconsistent finishing prevented them from converting more of their 57 shots on goal. As for Korea Republic, they relied on their trademark approach of quick passing and solid organisation, helping themselves to a spot in the last 16 as one of the best third-placed sides. In contrast, Cuba struggled to live with their opponents despite scoring the first goal of the tournament, and head home after a trio of losses but surely having learnt much from their debut appearance.
1. Portugal, 7 points
2. Nigeria, 6
3. Korea Republic, 4
4. Cuba, 0
Round of 16, all local times local
Portugal-Ghana, Wednesday 3 July, Kayseri, 17.00
Nigeria-Uruguay, Tuesday 2 July, Istanbul, 20.00
Colombia-Korea Republic, Wednesday 3 July, Trabzon, 20.00
Portugal got their campaign up and running in the best way possible with two goals in the first half of their game against Nigeria - judged by many to be their main rivals in the section. Edgar Borges' charges were nonetheless left reeling after the break as the Flying Eagles turned things around to draw level, but, two minutes after a second strike from Abdul Ajagun, Bruma put the Portuguese back in front. This time they held firm, and the European hopefuls built on their momentum to eventually take first place.
Bruma caught the eye like few other players in Group B, the Portugal forward notching five goals to move clear in the scoring charts. Boasting explosive pace, power, finishing prowess and a superb reading of the game, the Sporting Lisbon prodigy has already buried more efforts than any other Portuguese player in the history of this competition, edging ahead of Danny, Nuno Gomes and Nelson Oliveira, who all managed four. The 18-year-old also served up a pair of assists for his team-mate Aladje, who currently lies third in the list of top marksmen on three strikes.
Abdul Ajagun has plundered three goals as well, including a wonderful effort against Portugal. The Nigerian midfielder will have been less pleased with his penalty against Cuba – the only missed spot-kick in Group B – but his team still managed to win that game against a side displaying fragility in defence. The islanders were a different proposition in attack, however, and notably struck the first goal of the tournament courtesy of Maykel Reyes. For Korea Republic, meanwhile, Ryu Seungwoo was perhaps the standout performer, though he picked up a knock against Nigeria and remains a doubt for the Round of 16.
Cuba rarely managed to trouble their opponents as they struggled to get to grips with the tournament, and a handful of players left the Kadir Has Stadium pitch in tears following their 3-0 defeat by Nigeria. Despite his side's record, though, coach Raul Gonzalez insisted on focusing on the positives, pointing out that football has long played second fiddle to baseball in Cuba. His troops had much to be pleased about too and quickly won a place in the hearts of the crowds in Kayseri, where they were given a rousing send-off as their bid came to a close.
“I think Cristiano has got the lot as a player and I don’t mind saying that I try to copy what he does. Who knows, I might be able to achieve what he’s done one day?
Portugal forward Bruma, brought through the ranks at Sporting – just like a certain Real Madrid No7.