The quarter-final line-up at FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 was completed on a night of contrasts.
Two of the final trio booking their places did so via the slenderest of margins, while the other arrived with the most spectacular of flourishes.
Mexico were made to toil and labour against Senegal before, with the African side down to ten men, being left to rely on a late cameo from their leading marksman Ronaldo Cisneros. Italy, meanwhile, had to batten down the hatches as France came on strong in trying to reclaim parity, only to see Gli Azzurini earn revenge for last year’s UEFA European U-19 Championship final loss.
USA rubber-stamped the last eight schedule with an impressive display against New Zealand. Their youngest star, Josh Sargent, continued to make a name for himself as they matched their biggest ever tournament win – earned against Turkey in 1993.
Round of 16: Mexico 1-0 Senegal | France 1-2 Italy | USA 6-0 New Zealand
Ruiz rolls the dice, wins big
Mexico’s clash with Senegal looked near-certain to be heading to extra-time. Chances had been few and far between, while any cutting edge that was on the field seemed distinctly blunt. The exclusion of top scorer Ronaldo Cisneros surprised many but, after Senegal’s Alioune Gueye saw red, coach Marco Ruiz brought him and Diego Aguilar into the action. Near-instant success followed as within ten minutes the pair combined to score the crucial goal.
Arise Sir Riccardo
Riccardo Orsolini’s swept volley against France may not have put the European champions to the sword alone, but it was certainly a strike that was royally approved by his Azzurrini team-mates. So much so that Mattia Vitale chose to ceremonially knight the Juventus forward. Orsolini went down onto one knee in the corner of the Cheonan pitch as the corner flag was touched to his shoulders in a celebratory accolade following the opening goal.
Sargent strikes again
While it may not have been his prettiest goal of Korea Republic 2017, Sargent’s deflection on Justen Glad’s effort is one that will go down in the history books. With four in four games, the 17-year-old drew level with some prominent figures in USA’s footballing hierarchy in the shape of Jozy Altidore, Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson as the Stars and Stripes’ record U-20 World Cup scorer. Can he be the one to breach Venezuela’s backline for the first time in the quarter-finals and claim that record for himself?
“I thought it was time for the team to press and I made the substitution to bring Ronaldo Cisneros in, who’s our top scorer. I knew he would have at least one chance and that he wouldn’t miss it.”
Marco Ruiz, Mexico coach, on his key switch