- Fourth place the best-ever showing for three quarter-finalists
- USA feel right at home in Poland
- Senegal star poised to keep scoring
MATCHDAY PREVIEW – Saturday promises to be fascinating at Poland 2019 as teams with varying styles from different continents go head to head while tournament hotshots Lee Kangin, Sebastian Soto and Amadou Sagna return to action.
USA versus Ecuador is not just a battle of the Americas, but a match between two sides who overcame supposedly stronger teams in the last round. The Stars and Stripes edged France 3-2, while La Tri sent Uruguay packing with a 3-1 victory. The South Americans have already broken new ground in Poland by getting past the Round of 16 for the first time, while this is the USA’s best result since a fourth-place finish in 1989.
The day’s other fixture is just as intriguing and involves two teams who beat familiar foes on their way to the last eight. Korea Republic were 1-0 winners against Japan while Senegal saw off Nigeria 2-1. Both sides have influential players in their ranks, particularly the former’s Lee Kangin and the latter’s Amadou Sagna. The Senegalese star has four goals to his name at Poland 2019 and remains in the hunt for the adidas Golden Boot, even if Erling Haland’s tally of nine looks tough to beat. Korea Republic’s best showing was fourth place back in 1983, as is that of the Young Lions of Teranga, who finished fourth four years ago.
Saturday 8 June, local time
USA-Ecuador (Gdynia, 17:30)
Korea Republic-Senegal (Bielsko-Biala, 20:30)
What you need to know
“We played against Ecuador in the last U-20 World Cup and that was a brilliant match – it finished 3-3. However, Ecuador are much stronger this time around. They’re a great unit. They’ve reached this stage of the competition because they’ve played some quality football. Teams that are able to stay in games are really strong physically.”
Tab Ramos, USA coach
“Are we thinking about finishing in the top three? No, there’s a long way to go yet. We gave Nigeria too many goalscoring opportunities and our attacking game didn’t function as we would’ve liked. However, I’ve got to say that my players came out on top psychologically. The lads could have been caught in two minds when the score was 2-1. They could’ve gone searching for a third or sat back and protected the lead. They showed great maturity.”
Youssouf Dabo, Senegal coach
Players to watch
Sebastian Soto (USA)
The USA goalscorer feels at ease in Poland and that should be no surprise as the youngster’s idol is Robert Lewandowski. He scored both goals against Nigeria in the group stage, netted twice against France and could finish the tournament as one of its top scorers.
Gustavo Vallecilla (Ecuador)
The centre-half has been an absolute revelation for Ecuador. Strong, quick and decisive in both boxes, the defender already has two assists at Poland 2019 and was an unsung hero during his side’s triumph at the South American U-20 Championship.