The US and Senegal battled into the quarter-finals of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand yesterday, as Mali romped through and Serbia dramatically gate-crashed the last eight.
The US beat Colombia 2-1, despite finishing with 10 men, and Senegal needed penalties after grinding out a 1-1 deadlock with Ukraine as the tournament’s knockout phase began.
Meanwhile, Mali won their all-African clash with Ghana 3-0 and 10-man Serbia snatched a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Hungary thanks to a desperately unlucky own-goal.
The US and Colombia set a furious pace in an open first half, with both sides pressing during end-to-end exchanges, but unable to take their chances.
Just as Colombia were beginning to dominate, the US scored against the run of play when Paul Arriola’s 58th-minute shot was blocked by a defender, but fell kindly for Rubio Rubin, who calmly fired his shot home.
The victory means the US are to meet Serbia in the quarter-finals.
Serbia were red-hot favorites against Hungary, who scraped into the knockout phase after two defeats in their pool matches.
However, Hungary looked to have done enough with Bence Mervo’s 57th-minute strike, only for Ivan Saponjic to head a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer for Serbia.
In another twist, Serbia’s Milan Gajic was then red-carded before the match went into extra-time.
Serbia continued to attack, despite the disadvantage, and were rewarded with a winner just seconds before the match would have gone to penalties.
Hungary defender Attila Talaber tried to clear Saponjic’s cross for a penalty, but instead sent the ball ballooning into his own net to put Serbia into the last eight.
Tournament debutants Senegal were trailing until the 82nd minute, when Sidy Sarr scored the first goal that Ukraine had conceded during the tournament.
It was enough to force the match into extra time and eventually penalties, when Ibrahima Sy emerged as the hero.
Sy saved three of his four penalties to book Senegal a quarter-final against either Austria or Uzbekistan.
Ghana, the 2009 champions, qualified top of Group B, but looked a shadow of the side that defeated pool rivals Argentina.
Mali showed the greater attacking intent and Diadie Samassekou put them ahead in the 20th minute.
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