BARRANQUILLA: Title-favorites Argentina and Brazil picked up easy wins Thursday to reach the second round of the Under-20 World Cup, while England are likely to advance despite drawing all their three matches 0-0. Brazil routed Panama 4-0 and Argentina beat North Korea 3-0, winning their groups and securing a berth in the knockout phase. Mexico drew England and also advanced, while Egypt progressed by beating Austria 4-0.
Panama, North Korea, and Austria were eliminated. Inter Milan playmaker Philippe Coutinho scored twice to lead Brazil over Panama. Henrique opened the scoring in the 40th minute, and Philippe Coutinho added to the lead in first-half stoppage time and in the 52nd. Dudu completed the scoring in the 89th. Philippe Coutinho’s second goal was a beauty. He controlled the ball with his thigh inside the area and cleared a defender before firing a well-placed shot into the far corner.
It was his third goal in as many matches in the tournament in Colombia. “It was an important victory because if gives us even more confidence going into the next round,” Philippe Coutinho said. Brazil won Group E with seven points. Egypt also finished with seven points, but trailed Brazil on goal difference. Panama and Austria were eliminated with one point each. Mohamed Ibrahim scored three second-half goals in Egypt’s victory over Austria in Cartagena.
The Egyptians will face Argentina in the round-of-16. Brazil’s opponent in the second round will be either Saudi Arabia or Nigeria. It will most likely be the Saudis, unless they manage to beat the Africans in their last group game on Saturday. “We are improving in the competition and hopefully we will play even better in the next round,” Brazil coach Ney Franco said. “We can’t make mistakes from now on.” In Medellin, six-time champion Argentina defeated North Korea 3-0 with goals by Facundo Ferreyra in the 36th minute, Lucas Villafanez in the 84th and Adrian Cirigliano in second-half stoppage time.
The Argentines won despite playing without star Erik Lamela, who is nursing an ankle injury. “We had to win a spot in the next round, and Argentina went after the match — but patiently,” Argentina coach Walter Perazzo said. “It was a strange match. We created a lot of chances but it took us time to break through.” Argentina won Group F with seven points from three matches, three points more than Mexico, who dominated against England but were not able to capitalise on their scoring opportunities. “You need goals to win and we couldn’t score them,” Mexico coach Juan Carlos Chavez said. The result extended England’s winless streak in the Under-20 World Cup to 13 matches. Its last victory was against Mexico in 1997. “It’s got to be some kind of a record,” England coach Brian Eastick said.
England are playing without their top players because more than 30 eligible players were not released for national team duty by their clubs due to preseason training commitments. England will still advance to the last 16 unless there is an extraordinary combination of results in the remaining group games, most particularly in the Croatia-Guatemala game, where Croatia would have to win by five goals or Guatemala by 11, otherwise England goes through.
The top two teams in each of the six groups advance to the knockout stage and are joined by the top four third-place teams. The group stage ends Saturday. Argentina has won five of the past eight U-20 titles and six overall — the most by any nation. Ghana beat Brazil in the final of the last World Cup. – Dailytimes