THE DAY REPLAYED – The Round of 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 is now complete after four thrilling encounters. Brazil, Germany, Portugal and Uzbekistan progressed to the next round, but the tournament is over for hosts New Zealand after a goal from Gelson Martins four minutes from time ended the Kiwis’ dreams of a historic place in the quarter-finals.
European champions Germany faced major difficulties against a strong Nigerian side, ultimately reaching the last eight thanks to a first-half strike from Levin Oztunali. Next up for them will be Mali in Christchurch on Sunday.
Meanwhile penalties were needed to resolve a close-fought South American derby between Brazil and Uruguay, with both teams failing to score over 120 minutes. Rodrigo Amaral missed from the spot for La Celeste while A Seleçãozinha netted all five of their kicks to set up a meeting with Portugal on Sunday.
Earlier in the afternoon, Uzbekistan overcame Austria after a brace from Dostonbek Khamdamov to equal the round they reached two years ago. The sole remaining Asian side impressed the crowds with their quick, pressing forward play and were simply too good for their European opponents.
Austria 0-2 Uzbekistan
Germany 1-0 Nigeria
Portugal 2-1 New Zealand
Brazil 0-0 Uruguay (PSO 5-4)
Goal of the day
New Zealand 1-2 Portugal, Gelson Martins (87’)
The match in Hamilton appeared to be heading for extra time after New Zealand fought back from a 1-0 deficit to level things up. But with three minutes left on the clock, Gelson Martins fired home a magnificent goal to break the hearts of an entire nation. The striker sailed past three defenders before curling the ball into the top-left corner with the outside of his right boot to seal New Zealand’s fate.
All good things come from above
For years now, Spain’s national team have been all about the tiki-taka style that has allowed them to sweep past opponents. Uzbekistan adopted an entirely different approach in their last-16 U-20 World Cup encounter with Austria, opting instead to use long, high balls at the Northlands Events Centre in Whangerei. Twice the Asian side caught out the Austrian defence with this tactic, with Khamdamov finishing clinically to secure victory for his team. Their quarter-final opponents Senegal will no doubt have watched their performance very closely and will now be on their guard.
Ice cold haka
The host nation received overwhelming support in their Round of 16 tie as 10,429 fans packed out the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton to cheer on New Zealand’s young stars. A Maori group performed the country’s traditional haka dance after the national anthems, stripped to the waist in temperatures of barely ten degrees Celsius. Their performance received a rousing reception from the crowd, and even the All Whites joined in the applause. The atmosphere continued as the Kiwi fans’ songs echoed around the arena throughout the game.
Uzbekistan are another side who can rely on incredible support at the U-20 World Cup, with one very special fan accompanying the team through their campaign while dressed in traditional clothing. He handed out Uzbek flags to local football fans outside the arena before the latest match, before repeatedly upping the atmosphere during the game by shouting: “Hey people, we’re not at the cinema, theatre or opera – this is football!” The Whangerei crowd sang enthusiastically along with him. After the final whistle, star striker Khamdamov even donned his helmet to celebrate the team’s progress to the quarter-finals.
100 – Brazil had reason to celebrate even before kick-off as their Round of 16 encounter was the country’s 100th U-20 World Cup game. A Seleçãozinha have won 72 of these matches, drawing 14 and losing 14 along the way. The South Americans are the first side in the competition’s history to reach this milestone, having made their U-20 World Cup debut with a 5-1 win against Iran on 27 June 1977.
“My first thought after the match was ‘What a pity a team as good as Nigeria have to go home early!’ But that’s how the draw works. Nevertheless, it’s a shame.” Frank Wormuth, Germany coach
Sunday, 14 June 2015 (all times local)
Senegal - Uzbekistan (16.30, Wellington)
USA - Serbia (16.30, Auckland)
Mali - Germany (13.00, Christchurch)
Brazil - Portugal (13.00, Hamilton)