The FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 group stage came to a tense climax as the last 16 was finally confirmed.
Group F was wide open going into the final day, with a single goal in both games able to have completely transformed the shape of the first knockout round.
While there was joy for the likes of France, New Zealand, USA, Senegal and Saudi Arabia, it was a solemn goodbye for Honduras, Vietnam and Ecuador. Away from the field of play there were mixed emotions too, as victory for Honduras was enough to catapult Germany into the last 16. Saudi Arabia’s second-half equaliser, however, left Argentina heartbroken, seeing them exit at the first stage for the second time in succession.
Group E: New Zealand 0-2 France | Honduras 2-0 Vietnam
Group F: USA 1-1 Saudi Arabia | Senegal 0-0 Ecuador
A moment of genius? Or just luck?
Just like during the first FIFA World Cup™ held in this region, a stunning goal has left the question: Did he mean it? While it was Ronaldinho 15 years ago, this year it was Allan Saint-Maximin’s audacious effort from the left flank. Cross or shot? Speaking to FIFA.com, he is in no doubt. “As I dribbled, I could see the keeper was not on his line. I couldn’t see anyone to cross to, so I said to myself: ‘Let’s try!’ It went well,” he said with a smile.
A heart-warming departure
As Vietnam heard the final whistle of their debut U-20 World Cup, they knew they had not got the fairy-tale win they craved to keep their hopes alive, but that mattered not to the throng of supporters in red filling the Jeonju World Cup Stadium with noise. The departing side were cheered like heroes as they did a lap of honour to end their journey at Korea Republic.
A tense, tight finale
Having seen an above average tournament for goals across the first eight days (at 2.75/match), last day nerves seemed to grip the octet of Group E and F. The scarcity of goals in Daejeon can be in part put down to some sublime showings by New Zealand’s Michael Woud and Paul Bernardoni of France. However, the tension in Group F – and some help from the video assistant referee – saw them register the lowest daily tally of any group so far, with two.
“We could have won and topped this group to face [one of the third placed teams], but this is what we’ve got. We’ll take it step by step. Our next game is against Mexico and we’re ready to play!”
Mouhamed Mbaye, Senegal
The Round of 16 matches are as follows:
Tuesday 30 May
Wednesday 31 May
Thursday 1 June