From the moment the draw was made, Group F looked tough to predict. Croatia, Uruguay and Uzbekistan no not among the pacesetters in their respective continents, while New Zealand as Oceania champions were seen as capable of causing an upset.
The sides were unknown quantities and results were almost as unpredictable, with the top trio taking points off each other – and all three eventually progressing. Croatia's comparative consistency was enough to take them through on top, while Uruguay improved as they went on. Uzbekistan, meanwhile, tailed off as the group progressed and New Zealand struggled to get a foothold against their Group F rivals.
1. Croatia, 7 points
2. Uruguay, 6
3. Uzbekistan, 4
4. New Zealand, 0
Round of 16 (local times)
Greece-Uzbekistan, Tuesday 2 July, Gaziantep, 18:00
Nigeria-Uruguay, Tuesday 2 July, Istanbul, 21:00
Croatia-Chile, Wednesday 3 July, Bursa, 18:00
While not yet in crisis, nerves were jangling a little in the Uruguay camp after they had lost their opening game against Croatia. Though they improved as the night went on, they ended the first game with a 1-0 defeat. Their next match against New Zealand, who had lost 3-0 to Uzbekistan, seemed as good an opportunity as any to get back on track.
There was less than three minutes on the clock when Giorgian De Arrascaeta was hauled down outside the Junior All Whites penalty area, and there was little doubt that he would be standing over the resulting dead ball. What followed was a free-kick that jump-started Los Charruas' campaign, curling superbly into the top corner of Scott Basalaj's goal as the South Americans' tournament began in earnest.
Midfield magicians have been the principle delights of Group F, with a selection of impressive creative talents on show. While the aforementioned De Arrascaeta dazzled in the middle, Uzbekistan have a series of pass-masters amongst their ranks, with Jamshid Iskanderov and Abbosbek Makhstaliev arguably their best. Croatia meanwhile ruled the wings, with the likes of Ante Rebic and Marko Pjaca causing havoc for full-backs.
Elsewhere, striker Nicolas Lopez gathered momentum as the group stage went on while New Zealand captain Luke Adams defended stoutly throughout their three games, with Oliver Zelenika producing some fine saves in Croatia's goal.
4 – Uruguay's progression to the knockout stages saw CONMEBOL become the only confederation at the FIFA U-20 World Cup to see every one of its participants escape the group stages. Los Charruas' sealed their place after scoring six unanswered goals following defeat in their opening game, leaving them with a goal difference of five that is only second to Portugal.
Been a great 3 weeks with the boys in Turkey!!! Enjoyed every minute of it!!! Awesome experience being involved in the U20 World Cup. #peng
— Cameron Howieson (@CameronHowieson) June 30, 2013