New Zealand’s hopes of creating further history at the FIFA U-20 World Cup are over for now after a second-half blitz from a classy USA outfit resulted in a 6-0 defeat in the sides’ Round of 16 encounter at the Incheon Football Stadium in Korea Republic.
Darren Bazeley’s men went into the clash aiming to become the first ever team from these shores to make it to the quarter-finals of the tournament and that dream was still very much alive at the half-time whistle, despite the USA holding a slender 1-0 lead.
While struggling to create clear-cut goalscoring chances, New Zealand had competed well in that opening period and it took a slice of luck for the Americans to get off the mark, a Justen Glad volley taking a heavy deflection off the impressive Joshua Sargent – who was later awarded the goal – to deceive goalkeeper Michael Woud in the 32nd minute.
The Kiwis remained well in the game until just past the hour mark, when the quality and strength in depth of the USA squad finally began to show as they scored five more times.
The New Zealand line-up, which featured Noah Billingsley in place of Sarpreet Singh in the only change from the France defeat, was restricted to no more than half chances in the first stanza and were left to rue spurning their best opportunity in the 55th minute. The score was still only 1-0 at that stage and Bazeley had just made an attacking change to try to force the equaliser – Billingsley making way for Henry Cameron – when the Oceania champions put together their finest move of the match down the right.
Joe Bell played a characteristically well-placed ball down the line for Jack-Henry Sinclair to run onto and pick out Moses Dyer just inside the box but the newly-named captain turned his effort agonisingly wide of the far post. It was as close as New Zealand would come and they were made to pay as the USA went on to take total control of proceedings with a scintillating offensive display.
Ironically, Bazeley’s side were enjoying one of their best spells of the game when the USA struck a telling second goal in the 64th minute, Jeremy Ebobisse spinning on the edge of the area before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Woud, who was again among New Zealand’s best showings despite having to pick the ball out of his net six times.
With nothing to lose, Bazeley immediately responded by going on the front foot, bringing off well-performed defender Hunter Ashworth for playmaker Singh, but that tactical switch had little impact on the USA’s momentum. Brooks Lennon burst down the right and finished calmly to make it 3-0 just seconds later and, from that point on, New Zealand could not cope with the American assault, Glad finally getting a goal to his name in heading home a corner in the 76th minute before substitute Auston Trusty came close to matching the quality of Ebobisse’s strike with a similar effort in the 84th minute.
The New Zealand camp, several of whom did not have fond memories of playing the USA after falling 4-0 to the same opponents in the previous edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup two years ago, were now keen to hear the final whistle but there was still time for icing to be spread on the American cake as another substitute, Lagos Kunga, completed the scoring in stoppage time.
Bazeley and two members of the U-20 squad – Clayton Lewis and Dane Ingham, both withdrawn after the second group stage match to join the senior national team – will hope to get over the disappointment quickly with a positive showing with the All Whites in the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
USA 6 (Joshua Sargent 32’, Jeremy Ebobisse 64’, Brooks Lennon 65’, Justen Glad 76’, Auston Trusty 84’, Lagos Kunga 90’ + 3’)
New Zealand 0
New Zealand: 1. Michael Woud (GK), 3. Sean Liddicoat, 5. Hunter Ashworth (18. Sarpreet Singh), 6. Joe Bell (16. Callum McCowatt 82’), 8. Moses Dyer (c), 9. Noah Billingsley (11. Henry Cameron (yellow card 79’)), 13. James McGarry, 14. Jack-Henry Sinclair, 15. Reese Cox, 17. Logan Rogerson, 19. Myer Bevan
Substitutes not used: 4. Luke Johnson, 7. Connor Probert, 12. Cameron Brown (GK), 20. Lucas Imrie, 21. Conor Tracey (GK)
Coach: Darren Bazeley