By AARON CRANFORD
While Mexico and Mali played in an intriguing encounter with three red cards shown and two goals scored, CONCACAF’s two other representatives put up strong showings in the first three days of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
A world-class bomb from Jhamal Rodriguez allowed Panama to draw, 2-2, with an extremely gifted Argentina side, and on Day Three, Honduras posted an impressive 4-3 victory vs. Uzbekistan.
Elsewhere in the competition, heavy Group F favorite Germany won in convincing fashion, thrashing Fiji, 8-1, while Nigeria and Brazil battled it out in a six-goal affair, but the South American side ended up conquering the African nation, 4-2.
Here’s a rundown of those other results:
NEW ZEALAND 0, UKRAINE 0
In the tournament’s inaugural match, the hosts drew an incredible crowd of 25,000 in their Group A match with Ukraine. And New Zealand stood strong, holding a tough Ukraine side to a scoreless draw.
Ukranian Artem Biesiedin almost found the back of the net twice, with one shot being brilliantly saved and another going wide of the net.
The bright spot for New Zealand on the night was a chance created by Alex Rufer, but the insightful pass was wasted as Clayton Lewis skied the ball over the crossbar.
ARGENTINA 2, PANAMA 2
This Group B match was certainly the most interesting of the competition so far. Angel Correa got on the scoresheet first for Argentina, with a driven shot across the face of goal in the third minute.
Panama’s response is likely to be the best goal of the tournament, though, as Jhamal Rodriguez unleashed a cannon to the top corner of the goal from 25 yards to draw the CONCACAF side level.
Great work from the Panamanian goalkeeper kept Correa from getting on the board again in the second half, saving a shot inside the six-yard box.
Correa finally broke through again, though, to restore the South American side’s lead, after Argentina had been knocking on the door for most of the second half.
Four minutes after that goal, Carlos Small struck a half-volley to find Fidel Escobar and draw the match level at 2-2. Small was all alone near the end of the match with the chance to put Panama up, but was unable to outwit the Argentine keeper, who came out fast and forced Small into a poorly taken shot.
GHANA 1, AUSTRIA 1
Group B’s second match was full of outstanding rockets from far outside of the box, but both goalkeepers were on their game and able to keep those chances out of the back of the net.
However, that changed when a kick save by Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati was not enough to keep Austria from taking a 1-0 lead. Bernd Gschweidl was the Austrian with the goal in the 50th minute, who put home the loose ball that resulted from Ati’s save.
Ghana was able to draw level, though, through Yaw Yeboah, after he was taken down in the penalty area and put home the resulting penalty.
COLOMBIA 1, QATAR 0
In Group C’s first match, Colombia and Qatar battled it out until the very end, but Joao Rodriguez’s 24th-minute strike was enough to give the South American side the victory.
Rodriguez struck through Qatar goalkeeper Yousof Hassan’s legs to help his side to a 1-0 lead. The Chelsea player, on loan at Vitoria in Portugal, created several other chances and very nearly had a hat trick in this match.
Overall, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the South Americans, who were tasked with keeping Qatar off the board for almost one hour. The Asian side could only muster up weak attempts at Colombia’s goalkeeper, with Alvaro Montero always being able to make the save.
MALI 2, MEXICO 0
The second half of this Group D match held all the action, as three players were sent off before Mali struck twice to win the match.
Diego Gama and Oscar Bernal were sent off for Mexico, the first due to an off-the-ball incident and the second for two yellow card offenses. Mali’s Hamidou Maiga had already been sent off close to the hour mark after bringing down Hirving Lozano in an overly physical challenge.
The scoring began with 14 minutes left in the match. Adama Traore finished off a Youssouf Kone free kick with a fine header, and three minutes later, Dieudonne Gbakle doubled the lead with a well-executed goal that came after quick passing and talented dribbling.
PORTUGAL 3, SENEGAL 0
A talented Portugal side was attacking Senegal early and constantly in this matchup, scoring as early as 26 seconds with a fantastic team goal.
Silva picked out a pass for Martins, who got a touch on the ball to chip it over Senagal goalkeeper Ibrahima Sy. A beautifully curled free kick from Nuno Santos made contact with the head of Andre Silva, who skied above his defender to find the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
Then, when Sy charged outside of his box to try and stifle the potent Portuguese attack, Nuno Santos slotted home a shot of his own from about 30 yards out.
URUGUAY 1, SERBIA 0
Gaston Pereiro finished off an cheeky outside-of-the-foot assist from Facundo Castro to put Uruguay up and subsequently take first place in Group D.
Uruguay took the lead in the 56th minute of the match through the Uruguayan’s strike.
Serbia came close a number of times over the course of the match, most notably through a near miss by Sergey Milinkovic in the second half and two saved attempts from Ivan Saponjic and Andrija Zivkovic.
NIGERIA 2-4 BRAZIL
Nigeria put up a fight early, but Brazil was too powerful down the stretch, putting two goals in the net in the second half to claim their first victory in Group E.
Gabriel Jesus got things going for Brazil in the 4th minute, but Success Isaac and Musa Yahaya both scored before the 30-minute mark to put Nigeria up 2-1. However, Judivan scored the first of his brace in the 34th to level things before the half.
Boschilia bagged the game-winner for Brazil in the 59th with a powerful low-driven strike from well outside the penalty area, and Judivan claimed his second of the tournament in the 82nd minute, thanks to a fatal error made by goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo.
GERMANY 8-1 FIJI
In 2014, Germany’s senior national team claimed the coveted World Cup, and the Germany Under-20 national team took one step toward that same success in a 8-1 beatdown of Fiji in their first Group F match.
Before Fiji midfielder Iosefo Verevou netted his side’s first and only goal in the 48th minute, Niklas Stark scored a brace before 30 minutes had passed, Hany Muktar also bagged a brace before halftime, Marc Stendera added a goal from the penalty spot and Grischa Proemel found the back out the net as well.
Later in the second half, Marvin Stefaniak added the seventh for the Germans, and Muktar finished from the spot for his hat trick in the 89th.
KOREA DPR 1-5 HUNGARY
In Group E’s second match, Hungary thumped Korea DPR, as Bence Mervo netted a hat trick in the impressive victory.
Choe Ju Song made things interesting in the 32nd minute after leveling the score at 1-1, but Hungary forward Zsolt Kalmar answered right back, scoring moments later to give Hungary the lead. David Forgacs would score coming on as a substitute in the second half. And Mervo would find his third and Hungary’s final goal in the 82nd minute.
UZBEKISTAN 3-4 HONDURAS
Honduras claimed their first victory of the U-20 World Cup in a wild 4-3 win over Uzbekistan in Group F.
Jhow Benavidez started things off for Honduras in the 4th minute, and Orlando City SC forward Bryan Rochez found his first in the 20th minute. Uzbekistan midfielder Dostonbek Khamdamov cut the scoreline in half before the break, but Kevin Alvarez scored from a free kick in the second half to give Honduras the two-goal cushion once again.
After that goal is when things got interesting. Eldor Shomurodo scored a simple tap-in in the 79th, giving his side hope to find the equalizer in the waning minutes. In the 92nd minute, Rochez found his second of tournament, and the goal seemed to be the final nail in the coffin, but Uriboev found a the back of the net with a header in the 96th minute. His shot was the last of the match, though, and Honduras walked away with all of the points.
Go go figi!!wat a suprise package
Two important pieces of news here: Fiji scored against Germany, and Panama, ohh Panama, tied Argentina; they must be feeling confident about a future WC appearance.