Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For the majority of their first match in this year’s Toulon Tournament, a less than full-strength U.S. U-20 squad held their own against France’s U-21s.
However, a pair of one-two punches from France at the end of both halves knocked out any chance of points for the Americans on Tuesday.
The American U-20s fell 4-1 to the hosts, who scored two goals in the final five minutes of each half to make a closer match look like a blowout on the scoreboard.
Benji Joya pulled one back for the U.S. with a free kick goal in the 72nd minute, but the comeback bid was swiftly ended five minutes later with another double from the talented French offense.
After holding off France’s attack for most of the opening half-hour, the U.S. offense began to take shape with some close chances midway through the 40-minute half. The match appeared to be heading to halftime still scoreless, but a brilliant backheel flick from France midfielder Alexandre Coeff and a completely mishandled shot by Cody Cropper made it 2-0 for France at the break.
The quickfire double did not seem to destroy the United States’ confidence as they continued to create chances on goal in the second half. Joya’s goal with eight minutes remaining kept hopes of an opening point alive, but France came back with another double. OGC Nice striker Stephane Bahoken volleyed home a goal shortly after his introduction, and Lyon’s Rachid Ghezzal capped the scoring off with a goal in stoppage time.
The U-20s, who are using the international U-21 tournament as final preparation for next month’s World Cup, will be back in action Thursday against Colombia, the 1-0 winner of the opening match in Group A.