Two late goals, including an injury-time winner, saw USA escape with a barely-deserved 2-1 win over Mexico to reach the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup semi-finals.
Mexico led from midway through the second half, until USA substitutes Ally Watt and Kelcie Hedge saved the three-time champions from an exit at the hands of their CONCACAF rivals.
Neither team fully settled into a rhythm in the opening half amid the warm late afternoon conditions. But it was Mexico who had marginally the better of proceedings, dominating the shot and corner count.
Lively left-sided winger Maria Sanchez let fly early, stinging the palms of Casey Murphy, after a skilful dribble set up the opportunity.
USA striker Ashley Sanchez had some good moments in attack, but opportunities were all too rare for the Stars and Stripes. The closest USA came to scoring was from a charged-down goalkeeper clearance, which spokes volumes about their paucity of chances.
The second half started much like the first with possession statistics similar, but with Mexico looking the more dangerous in attack.
El Tri’s Kiana Palacios spurned a good opening when she was unable to get over her close-range shot, following Jacqueline Crowther’s headed knock-down.
But then came the breakthrough. Mexico earned a free-kick for handball on the edge of the penalty area and Maria Sanchez curled the ball around the near-side of the wall and straight through the hands of Murphy.
Crowther could then have extended Mexico's lead, but like Palacios a few minutes earlier, she was unable to wrap her foot over a bouncing ball with the goal gaping.
Just as thoughts of a quarter-final exit for the three-time champions loomed, up stepped Watt. Just eight minutes after entering the fray, she raced on to a smart Sanchez pass and slipped the ball under the advancing goalkeeper. Incredibly it was USA’s first shot on target.
Just as extra time loomed, Sanchez burst down the right and her pullback was cleverly dummied, allowing Hedge to sweep the ball home with help from a deflection.
Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Ally Watt (USA)