- Venezuela the surprise package of the tournament
- England through to the last 16 for only the second time in 20 years
- Argentina win big but finish third in Group A, leaving them to wait
THE DAY REPLAYED – The line-up for the Round of 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 is beginning to take shape, with Groups A and B reaching their conclusions on Friday. The day saw Venezuela, Mexico, England and Korea Republic all advance, and left Argentina and Germany waiting to see if they would join them as two of the four best third-placed sides.
La Vinotinto have a virtually faultless record so far. Victorious in all their group games, the Venezuelans have scored ten goals – more than any other side at Korea Republic 2017 – boast the tournament’s leading marksman, and have also yet to concede a goal. As for the hosts, who were already through, they rested star players Lee Seungwoo and Paik Seungho for their meeting with England and then brought them off the bench when it was too late, as the English held on to secure a win that gave them top spot in Group A and a place in the second round for the second time in 20 years.
Despite losing to Venezuela, Mexico took second place in Group B on goal difference from the Germans, who have four points and look well set to go through as one of the best four third-placed teams. Meanwhile, La Albiceleste cantered to victory over Guinea. With just three points to their name, though, they will have to wait with Germany to see if they advance to the knockout phase.
The Panther strikes again
Venezuela’s Sergio Cordova is giving defences a torrid time at Korea Republic 2017. Against Mexico he showed why he is the competition’s leading scorer, conjuring up a stunning goal to seal the points for his side and take his tournament tally to four. Nicknamed La Pantera (“The Panther”), the in-form striker latched on to a flighted through ball from Adalberto Penaranda, shrugged off the challenge of Edson Alvarez, shimmied his way past the keeper and slid the ball across the line from a narrow angle, despite the best efforts of Manuel Mayorga on the goal-line. The image of the Mexico No5 sliding in desperation across the line but seeing the ball roll agonisingly behind him summed up the subtlety of Cordova’s sumptuous strike.
Bong goes out with a bang!
He arrived in Korea Republic as the captain and star act of unknown quantities Vanuatu and will head home having earned the respect of the world. After his superb goal against Mexico, Bong Kalo helped himself to a brace against Germany. The first was pure opportunism, as he made the most of a defensive error. The second was a majestic free-kick, and capped what has been an unforgettable World Cup for him and his team-mates. The send-off they received from the stands was even more memorable, as dozens of schoolchildren cheered them on throughout the whole of their final match of the competition. When the final whistle blew, the Vanuatu players saluted their young supporters in the stands. The loud cheers they received in response was a fitting tribute to a team that can depart with heads held high despite having failed to pick up any points.
Old routine, new faces
Lautaro Martinez was less than a year old when Argentina knocked England out of the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™. It was on that night in Saint Etienne that Juan Veron and Javier Zanetti conjured up a textbook set-piece to allow the full-back to level up the tie at 2-2. Argentina’s new breed produced a virtual carbon-copy of that slick move against Guinea. Shaping to shoot from a free-kick awarded just outside the area, Tomas Conechny clipped a pass instead into the path of Martinez, who had emerged from the defensive wall to take up an unmarked position on the right. Martinez’s low cross-shot gave the Guinea keeper no chance and set the seal on a 5-0 win for the South Americans.
“It was a really lovely gesture. The fans were amazing and I want to thank them.”
England coach Paul Simpson on the “Pray for Manchester” banner that the home fans hung up behind one of the goals in Suwon.
Tuesday 30 May
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— Joshua Onomah (@Joshuaonomah10) May 26, 2017