- Driven on by a youthful talent, USA earn thrilling point
- France cruise, while Senegal see off Saudi Arabia
- Vietnam clinch point on opening bow
THE DAY REPLAYED – While five of today’s octet of title-hunters in Korea Republic have racked up 41 appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup between them, arguably it was a day where the most intriguing sights came from those less seasoned.
Senegal made huge waves when they debuted two years ago, gracing the final four, with hints that they could do the same again as they swept aside eight-time visitors Saudi Arabia with relative ease, a feat replicated by the well-versed France against Honduras. Vietnam’s debut match at an 11-a-side FIFA tournament could so nearly have ended in delirium for their vocal band of fans, while Ecuador – only twice attendees before this year – looked set for an impressive win over the USA, only to be derailed by one of the freshest faces of all in Josh Sargent.
Despite being more than six months younger than any of his team-mates, USA’s Sargent was not about to let a little thing like a birth certificate cow him from making his mark on the world stage. Two well-taken goals either side of half-time set the Stars and Stripes up for a thrilling draw with Ecuador and earned him an impressive title: the first player born in the 21st century to score in the U-20 World Cup. As the saying goes, 'if you’re good enough, you’re older enough'.
A different shade of Bleu
Having dominated during the UEFA European Under-19 Championship last year, hitting six goals on his way to being named best player, Jean-Kevin Augustin was tipped from a breakout season at Paris Saint-Germain. In the blue of his club he has struggled to rediscover that form, but when representing Les Bleuets? It was just 15 minutes before he had opened his U-20 World Cup account.
A red roar in Cheonan
Stepping out into new territory clearly was an event not to be missed. Every touch by Vietnam was met by the majority of the 9,400 fans in Cheonan vocally filling the stadium, while renditions of the song 'Vietnam Ho Chi Minh' echoed through the evening air. Those back home were well catered for too, with 20 journalists on hand to relay the success of their maiden point, while giving the coach a standing ovation in the post-match press conference.
"This team is a new team. I can tell you, this team of Senegal is a little better than that team who [reached the semi-finals] in 2015. Selecting 11 players today was very difficult for me. I could have closed my eyes and chose the players."
Joseph Koto, Senegal coach
Thursday 25 May
More from Korea Republic
— Sunil Gulati (@sunilgulati) May 22, 2017