THE DAY REPLAYED – The big shock, on a day on which Austria and Ukraine both advanced to the last 16 of the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, was the elimination of Argentina. Held to a 0-0 draw by the Austrians in Wellington, the six-time champions were condemned to an early exit by the host nation’s 5-1 defeat of Myanmar.
It was an unforgettable night for the All Whites, who came from a goal down to swamp the Asian debutants and finish on four points in Group A, giving them every chance of advancing to the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed teams. Ukraine topped the pool after easing to a 3-0 defeat of the USA, who finished second.
The Argentinians, who went into the day needing to win and for the New Zealanders to fail to do so, were on the front foot for most of their match against the Austrians but could not find a way past the impressive Tino Casali. The South Americans’ first-round exit is their first since Portugal 1991, while Austria find themselves in the last 16 for only the second time in their history.
Top spot in Group B was claimed by Ghana, who beat Panama 1-0 to take their points tally to seven. A game that had seemed destined to remain goalless was settled by Emmanuel Boateng’s late solo effort.
Ukraine were once again indebted to the razor-sharp finishing of Viktor Kovalenko, who scored all three in his side’s defeat of USA. The Americans tested Bohdan Sarnavskyi in the Ukraine goal but were very much second best as they relinquished top spot to the eastern Europeans.
*Myanmar 1-5 New Zealand
Ukraine 3-0 USA
*Austria 0-0 Argentina
Panama 0-1 Ghana
Goal of the day*Myanmar-New Zealand 1-2, Patterson (47)
*Though goals were in relatively short supply on day seven of New Zealand 2015, it did produce a genuine candidate for goal of the tournament: the hosts’ second in their five-goal romp against the Asian newcomers, a superb four-touch move inside the penalty box. Showing great touch for his size, striker Alex Rufer started things off by back-heeling the ball through the legs of his marker and into the path of Clayton Lewis, who laid it off to Noah Billingsley, who in turn slid the ball first time to the waiting Monty Patterson. All the Ipswich Town midfielder had to do to complete the slickest of moves was tap the ball over the line from close range.
Memorable momentsOne-man wall
The main reason why Argentina failed to get the win they craved at Wellington Regional Stadium was the performance of Austria keeper Tino Casali. The 6’4 custodian stood tall in more ways than one, pulling off save after save to frustrate the South Americans time and again. Angel Correa, Matias Tripichio and Emanuel Mammana were among those thwarted by the irrepressible Casali, who used feet as well as hands to keep the six-time winners at bay and produced a stunning double save to defy Giovanni Simeone.
What might have been
Panama leave New Zealand without having achieved their objective of claiming a first U-20 World Cup win in 15 attempts. Their 1-0 reverse at the hands of Ghana was too much to take for some players, among them Fidel Escobar, who slipped over in missing a 90th-minute penalty. After wrapping a paternal arm around the player at the final whistle, Panama coach Leonardo Pipino then succumbed to the emotion of the occasion, welling up with tears in the post-match press conference.
Just as they had done against New Zealand and Myanmar, Ukraine played out a goalless first half against USA. And just as they had done against the Asians, they went on a post-restart scoring spree, taking their Group A goal tally to nine, all of them coming after half-time. In taking his tournament tally to five with his triple salvo, Kovalenko is now the competition’s leading scorer, one goal clear of Hungary’s Bence Mervo.
The stat 40 - The percentage of penalties missed in the competition to date. Panama defender Fidel Escobar’s wayward spot-kick was the fourth penalty out of the ten awarded so far not to hit the back of the net.
The words“That was the game of my life! Amazing! Beating Argentina at football (in the group) is like them beating us at ski jumping,” Tino Casali, Austria goalkeeper.
Saturday, 6 June 2015 (all times local)
*Group C *
Senegal-Qatar (13.00, Hamilton)
Colombia-Portugal (13.00, Dunedin)
*Serbia-Mexico (16.00, Dunedin)
Mali-Uruguay (16.00, Hamilton)