The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team found itself in a much tougher match than expected on Thursday, but ultimately used a goal from its most experienced player to move on to the knockout phases.
Tim Weah scored in the 76th minute to help the Americans overcome a sloppy performance in a 1-0 win over Qatar in their Group D finale. The winner came via a cool and exquisite finish that saw Weah pull off a nutmeg cutback on centerback Ahmed Al-Hamawende before firing the shot home.
The result left the Americans in second place in the group, setting up a Round of 16 match on Tuesday against whoever wins Group E between France and Mali.
Midfielder Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin will not be available for that elimination game due to yellow-card accumulation. They both received their second cautions of the tournament in the closing 45 minutes of Thursday’s affair.
The Americans finished the match on top, but it was Qatar that looked the more dangerous side in the first half. The Qataris had the cleanest look of the first 45 minutes, but U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa made an incredible stop on a 2-on-1 on counterattack after centerback Aboubacar Keita turned the ball over in the American half.
A turnover at the other end opened the door Weah’s winner after the break. Qatar attempted to build up another attack after halting a U.S. attack, but the Americans won the ball back quickly. It was then played into the path of Weah, who showed some of his individual quality by cutting back and firing home.
The U.S. U-20s had two great chances afterwards to put the game away, but failed to capitalize on them. Qatar goalkeeper Shehab Ellethy first denied Alex Mendez on a poorly-taken penalty kick, and then stoned Weah on a 1-on-1 opportunity a few minutes later.