Beating the previously unbeaten French has the Americans in the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup again, and the team is looking at a title challenge
Before making the trip from the United States to Poland for the U-20 World Cup, Tab Ramos was cautiously optimistic. I knew I was leading a good team from the United States to this year's competition. In his words, they were the most talented of the four squads he had brought to the tournament.
What he did not understand well was the quality of the opponents that his team would face and the type of road they would have to travel to realize the dream of a deep tournament. For that reason, Ramos believed that any talk about challenging a World Cup title was silly before the tournament.
The group stage showed that Ramos was right to be cautious. Group D proved to be a challenge, but the USA. UU They managed to reach the elimination rounds as second placed. An even bigger test was expected in the round of 16 and the Americans found a way to pbad it, eliminating a team from France that was considered one of the favorites of the tournament.
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The French showed the quality that helped them achieve power through the group stage, including a victory against the newly-arrived quarter-finalist of the Mali World Cup, and overtook the United States for long periods. That was not a surprise given the quality on the French list. What was a surprise to those who did not know the United States team well, and even to some of those who did, is that the Americans could receive a blow from a power and return one.
When France took a 2-1 lead in the second half, it felt like a knockout was looming. Sebastian Soto's first goal gave hope to the Americans, but the way France punished the United States defense to score a pair of goals in response, dominating the game for much of the first 60 minutes, suggested that the Americans were doomed to the expected fate.
Everything changed when Ramos inserted Ulises Llanez and Justin Rennicks. The fast duo gave the Americans some much-needed energy, and Llanez's determined approach ignited his teammates and put the French on their heels. Suddenly, France went from thinking that it could come to victory and realize that it was facing a dangerous opponent.
"It was honestly the basics at the time," Soto said after the game. "You think you're playing on a world-clbad team like France, yes, you think you're scared or intimidated, it's like," No, it's the basics, it's football. "That's something we showed, but also with the fight, it was incredible. "
This should not have come as a surprise to the French, who had played against the Americans in a trio of friendlies over the past year. The two sides were familiar with each other, although that did not prevent France from looking flat in the last 25 minutes while the Americans fought back.
However, he would need more than energy, the United States needed some skill, and that is what he offered when he met a team goal well worked and limited by some individual ability. Llanez found Tim Weah at a distance of 35 yards from the goal, where the Paris Saint Germain product had time and space to measure a perfect pbad for Soto, who placed him in a small space and finished quietly ahead of the goalkeeper of France, based on Fiorentina. , Alban Lafont.
SOTO AGAIN! ??
Tim Weah this time with the lovely badistance, since the USA. UU They have tied it against France, 2-2, in the second half. pic.twitter.com/A0ZvR3uQsk
– FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 4, 2019
The equalizer should have reawakened to France, but the favorites did not respond, and instead it was the Americans who showed more life in the last minutes. That was clear in the winning goal, which came when Sergino Dest hit a speculative explosion from a long distance. A regular start in the Serie A goal, Lafont was expected to handle the shot comfortably, but could not grab it, leaving it spilled by a rebound in which Rennicks threw himself, pbading the slow-moving defenders of France into the slot. an unlikely winner
FULL TURN! ??
Justin Rennicks clears the rebound and gives the United States a 3-2 lead. The Baby Yanks are minutes from the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup! pic.twitter.com/s0Ng4aQmLT
– FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 4, 2019
It was a victory that was partly due to the determination, but also to the ability of some Americans to offer special moments, even in a match in which they were overcome. Soto took advantage of his chances, Weah had a hand in a goal for the fourth consecutive game, Chris Richards dominated the heart of the US defense. UU Again, and Llanez left the bank and provided the much needed energy for the second consecutive game.
If the triumph was surprising, it was not just the quality of France or the suspensions that made midfielders Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin leave for the United States. It was a surprise because the United States showed itself flat by beating Qatar in the final of the group stage. It was an unconvincing performance against an opponent that the Americans were expected to dominate, and apparently no shine, the United States invited questions about how good this team really was.
The Americans did not beat France, and they were dominated by significant periods, but what this United States team did was to refuse to break against a superior opponent. They fought and discarded, and they made great plays when they needed them.
They delivered the kind of victory that the fans of the USA. UU They used to see much more often than in recent years.
"We are one of the teams that, if you underestimate us, will punish you," Rennicks said. "I think that's what happened today."
Ramos' reaction to the final whistle was revealing. As those around him celebrated in an unrestrained manner, the US coach had a look of disbelief on his face, taking a moment to look at his watch as if the countdown to the quarterfinals on Saturday against Ecuador was already beginning. Maybe it was the finding that he has been here before, having won in the round of 16 in the two previous tournaments. On both occasions, the Americans went home after losses in the next round. In 2015 it was a penalty shootout loss against the eventual champion Serbia, then a loss in overtime against eventual finalist Venezuela in 2017.
Ramos arrived in Poland without knowing where his team was against the best in the world, but now he knows that he is a team capable of something special. If the Americans can beat Ecuador in the quarterfinals on Saturday, it would be the first time in 30 years that a team from the United States has reached the semi-finals of an U-20 World Cup.
After eliminating France, this team from the USA UU He will go to Saturday with the confidence that he can beat anyone, and after watching the Americans defeat France, a career in the U-20 World Cup title no longer sounds like such a crazy idea.