Day 7 of the U-20 World Cup saw a number of teams clinch a spot in the knockout round, while others will be going home earlier than expected.
One of those teams ending their run early is the United States, who was simply unable to get it done in a difficult Group A. With losses to Spain and Ghana to go with a draw against France, the team leaves with only one point to finish on bottom of the group.
Meanwhile, Cuba was also officially eliminated after a blowout loss against Portugal. Ghana and South Korea will have to wait and see if they earned enough points in third place to advance, with this tournament accepting a few extra squads in the next round.
Still, this third day of action for each team gave a strong indication what each squad was made of in this tournament. Here is a look at the biggest events of the day:
Day 7 Results
|Group A||Ghana 4, United States 1|
|Spain 2, France 1|
|Group B||Portugal 5, Cuba 0|
|Nigeria 1, South Korea 0|
Group A Standings
Group B Standings
Ghana Finally Gets a Win
With Spain and France in Group A, it is clear that it would be difficult for either Ghana or the United States to finish near the top. This seemed clear when U.S. only managed a draw and a loss against these teams, while Ghana had two losses.
However, both teams were still alive in the tournament entering the day. Ghana was the one who took advantage of the opportunity.
After getting tons of opportunities near the net in the first half, American goalkeeper Cody Cropper kept the match scoreless for a long time. That was until Frank Acheampong finally got his side on the board to make it 1-0 in favor of Ghana heading into halftime.
In the second half, the team continued its onslaught with two goals by Ebenezer Assifuah and a late score by Kennedy Ashia to help in the goal differential.
While the United States was able to get on the board when defender Shane O'Neill headed it in at the 68-minute mark, the final was rarely in doubt.
Ghana will have to wait to see what happens in the rest of the tournament, but the squad is certainly in better shape now than it was before the day started.
Spain Continues Its Dominance
As good as Spain has been at the senior level, the team could be even better in the future. The younger squad has continued to impress throughout this tournament, and that did not stop Thursday.
France had few answers from the start of the match, as it took only 22 minutes for Paco Alcácer to get Spain on the scoreboard.
The team was then able to add to the lead in the second half, thanks to a nice finish by forward Jese Rodríguez Ruíz in the 55th minute. Although France had a number of good looks late and even scored in the 90th minute to make the finish interesting, it was not enough to get the win.
Spain was simply the more aggressive team of the day, and France had a difficult time defending without fouling, which hurt in the long run.
With the win, Spain clinches the win in Group A as well as the top seed in the knockout stage as the only team that can reach the full nine points. It has truly been an impressive run that is certain to continue over the next week.
Portugal Embarrasses Cuba
Cuba has been one of the most overmatched teams in this tournament, and the squad hit its low point against Portugal in this match.
The squad had suffered consecutive losses to South Korea and Nigeria, although the team had a chance of winning those contests.
This one was truly never close.
Portugal scored twice in the first half with goals by Ricardo Pereira and Aladje. However, things continued to get worse after intermission with three more scores, two of them by Jeffrey Bruma.
Throughout the match, Portugal had plenty of opportunities near the net and actually got 24 shots off, with 12 of them on net. It was only a matter of time until many of them went in.
This victory gives Portugal seven points to win the pool and is a serious contender to go far once the quarterfinals begin. For Cuba, there are a lot of lessons to be learned going forward.
Nigeria Escapes With a Win
In one of the most competitive matches of the day, the biggest action took place right in the beginning.
Eight minutes into the match, Abdul Ajagun provided a cross to the middle of the net, which was finished in the air by Olarenwaju Kayode. That gave Nigeria the early lead, which was all the team needed.
Thanks to a strong midfield to control possession and the pace of the match, South Korea had few opportunities to get an equalizer. In fact, the team only got one shot on net.
After a disappointing loss to Portugal to start the tournament, Nigeria has won two in a row to clinch a spot in the knockout round. Depending on the matchup, this squad is certainly capable of winning a few more times before this event ends.
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