THE DAY REPLAYED – By the end of a day of great goals, late drama and goalkeeping heroics, Mali, USA, Serbia and Senegal had secured their places in the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015.
In an all-African affair in Wellington, Mali avenged their 3-0 defeat to Ghana in the match for third place at the CAF African U-20 Championships by the very same scoreline. The effervescent Malians capped a stylish performance with three superb goals as they ran out easy winners.
A dogged Serbia were rewarded for their perseverance against Hungary, snatching a late equaliser to take the tie into extra-time, where they bounced back from having a man sent off to clinch victory with a late own goal.
Despite firing 22 shots on goal to USA’s six, Colombia could not convert their attacking intent into goals, and were made to suffer when Rubio Rubin pounced on the hour-mark for the only goal of the game.
Finally, Senegal produced another late recovery to level their tie with Ukraine at 1-1 with nine minutes of normal time remaining, with Sidy Sarr responsible for the first goal conceded by the eastern Europeans in 353 minutes of action here in New Zealand. The more adventurous of the two sides over two hours of football, the Africans were ultimately rewarded for their efforts thanks to the shootout exploits of keeper Ibou Sy, who saved three penalties.
Ghana 0-3 Mali
Serbia 2-1 Hungary (aet)
USA 1-0 Colombia
Ukraine 1-1 Senegal (PSO 1-3)
Goal of the day
Ghana-Mali 0-1, Diadie Samassekou (20)
Mali’s ball-playing entertainers lit up a windy Wellington with a delightful move that began when Diadie Samassekou drifted in from the right and pushed a pass through to Adama Traore just outside the box. It was then that the fun began, with the duo playing an inventive double one-two that allowed the No8 to burst into the Ghana area and hammer a low shot into the corner of the net, setting Les Aigles on the way to their first last-eight appearance in the competition since 1999.
Cry me a river
The sight of Attila Talaber slumped on the pitch at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium with his head between his legs and sobbing uncontrollably is undoubtedly one of the most moving of the tournament to date. After all, there can be few footballing fates quite as bad in football as scoring a decisive extra-time own goal in a world finals knockout match, especially when your side had come within seconds of victory in normal time. The Hungarian defender’s woe was triggered when he inadvertently sliced an attempted clearance over the head of his keeper Gyorgy Szekely and into the back of the net, gifting Serbia a 2-1 win. So distressed was the unfortunate Talaber that even Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz was moved to console him.
Let’s hear it for Ibou
There are few more appealing characters at New Zealand 2015 than Senegal goalkeeper Ibou Sy. With his orange-tipped hair, the extrovert custodian has a unique style between the posts, one that helped him keep out three penalties in the shootout that saw his side into the quarter-finals. Another impressive moment came in the second period of extra-time, however, when he thought nothing of racing up the pitch to lend a helping hand to his cramp-stricken opposite number Viktor Kovalenko, a gesture that earned him a much-deserved round of applause.
Right said Zack
Senegal are not the only team with a keeper capable of rising to the occasion. USA owe their place at New Zealand 2015 in part to their gloveman Zack Steffen, who kept out a penalty at a vital stage of their decisive qualifying match against El Salvador. The big keeper was at it again in Wellington. With nine minutes left and his side down to ten men, he got down smartly to his right once again to deny Jarlan Barrera from the spot and preserve his side’s precious 1-0 lead.
18 - The number of FIFA U-20 World Cup matches that Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh has now taken charge of, putting him fourth on the all-time list, one ahead of former Spain boss Inaki Saez. His side’s defeat to Mali means Tetteh will have to wait at least two years before he can pull level with the third man on that list, Jesus Maria Pereda, who made 19 appearances in the Spain dugout.
“This team have scored a lot of goals in the last few minutes of matches because they always keep going right down to the wire. We have 21 lions who play football with their hearts and give absolutely everything. When we equalised, I said to myself, 'This is ours to win'." Veljko Paunovic, Serbia coach.
Thursday, 11 June 2015 (all times local)
Round of 16
Austria-Uzbekistan (16.00, Whangarei)
Germany-Nigeria (16.00, Christchurch)
Portugal-New Zealand (19.30, Hamilton)
Brazil-Uruguay (19.30, New Plymouth)