THE DAY REPLAYED – The heavens opened on Day 5 at New Zealand 2015, where the goals continue to show no signs of drying up. A drenched Dunedin and the wettest of Waikato Stadiums in Hamilton witnessed late drama and sumptuous strikes, though Portugal were the only side to succeed in joining USA in the last 16.
Helio Sousa's side were hugely impressive in their 4-0 demolition of Qatar and, having scored seven without reply thus far, are evidently genuine title contenders. Group C rivals Colombia could also prove dark horses, but they were denied early passage to the knockout phase by a stubborn Senegal side well worth their 1-1 draw.
Near-perfect symmetry exists in Group D, meanwhile, with all four sides locked together on three points. That is the unusual situation produced by Mexico and Serbia bouncing back from opening match-losses to beat Uruguay and Mali respectively. A thrilling conclusion to that section now awaits.
Results *Group C
*Qatar 0-4 Portugal
Senegal 1-1 Colombia
*Mexico 2-1 Uruguay
Serbia 2-0 Mali
Goal of the day *Qatar 0-2 Portugal, Ivo (42)
We have seen all manner of great goals at New Zealand 2015 but, until today, were still waiting for the first spectacular overhead kick. Portugal's Ivo was the man to fill that particular void, adjusting his body shape perfectly to send a textbook acrobatic effort beyond a helpless Qatari keeper. And while an assist and another goal would follow, this is the strike the winger will be dreaming about tonight.
Memorable moments *A picture-book Panenka
*It's said that practice makes perfect, but rarely in football does something come off to within the millimetre of how it is envisaged. Alexis Zapata enjoyed one such golden moment today, equalising against Senegal with a Panenka penalty that, from an aesthetic point of view, was flawless. An inch higher and he would have looked like a fool, but the Colombia midfielder's chipped spot-kick sailed on a perfect arc, with a delicate touch off the underside of the crossbar completing the prettiest of pictures.
*Ronaldinho, watch out
*Zapata's wasn't the only memorable goal to go in off the underside of the bar on Day 5. Mexico's Kevin Gutierrez also got his angles just right, in his case from a free-kick barely outside the box. Manoeuvring the ball to clear the wall and still dip in time from such a short distance was no mean feat, especially as this masterclass in set-piece technique was provided by a defender. Gutierrez isn't, however, the regular free-kick taker at his club, Queretaro. There, he would need to elbow his way past a certain Ronaldinho to take control. Could it be time, perhaps, for King Ronnie to make way for this young pretender?
*New Zealand's winter has generally been kind to the U-20 World Cup, with conditions on the whole ideal for football. Not today. Yet it was a great tribute to the ground staff in Dunedin and Hamilton that, as the rain fell heavily and near-incessantly, the surfaces underfoot showed little evidence of the onslaught from above. The result was players willing to take touches and take risks, and football which lived up to the standard set when the sun was shining.
The stat 395 - The number of consecutive minutes that have now passed since Qatar scored at the U-20 World Cup. The Asian champions last found the net at this tournament two decades ago, when they drew 1-1 with Russia on home soil.
The words *"Topping the group would leave us to play a team who finished third. And if you can't finish first or second after three matches, it shows that you're not entirely capable. Of course that would be an advantage," *Helio Sousa, Portugal coach.
Thursday 4 June 2015 (all times local)
*Group E (New Plymouth) *
Nigeria-Korea DPR, 16.00
*Group F (Christchurch)