Colombia put up a heroic display to turn the tables on United States in their final Group A game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup played under lights at the DY Patil Stadium on Thursday. (USA vs COL Match highlights)
Colombia’s sensational 3-1 win meant they finished on six points with USA and Ghana. Ghana topped the group on superior goal difference (+4). Colombia finished ahead of the USA due to their win on Thursday after both finished with an identical goal difference (+2). (POINTS TABLE| SCHEDULE)
However, USA look set to secure one of the four berths which will go to the best third-placed teams.
Both teams were under pressure, but for different reasons, Colombia because they had to win to stay in contention for the round of 16. On the other hand, USA, after the senior team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, were desperate to put up a strong display that would be a balm to dejected fans back home.October 12, 2017
However, to the dismay of the US supporters, their young guns too floundered against an inspired Colombia to leave a question mark on the health of the game in a country where footballers anyway fly under the radar compared to basketball, baseball and American football stars.
Conceding soft goal
The signs were ominous for USA when they conceded a soft goal within minutes of kick-off. The USA defence was caught napping following a long throw-in from the right and Juan Vidal had the simple task of tapping in from inside a crowded box.
With the likes of Josh Sargent leading their attack, this USA team is highly-rated, but the expected response from them never came. Colombia, who lost to Ghana and then survived a scare against India, put up a much-improved display. Their strategy of a hard-running game and attacking every ball didn’t let the USA team to settle down, and there were periods of play when the ball remained in their half.
Colombia forwards Deiber Caicedo and Vidal harried the central defenders by rushing at them every time they had the ball. Brayan Gomez was in his elements as the playmaker.
The Colombians cut off the supply lines to dangerman Sargent, who had to repeatedly fall back to boost his defence. However, Andrew Carleton remained a livewire on the right flank. It was from one of his runs that US restored parity in the 24th minute. He did the spadework by cutting past three players and then pulled it back for George Acosta to fire home.
But as news trickled in that Ghana had taken a 2-0 lead, the Colombians stepped up the pace. Soon, they were in full flow, cutting through the USA defence with swift passing. Their efforts bore fruit in the 67th minute when they were awarded a free-kick on the left side of the box. It was a very acute angle, but Juan Penaloza produced a beauty to trigger wild celebrations in the dugout.
From there on, Colombia put on a show of South American football. There was a spectacular side volley from Juan Vidal and a rising shot from Yadir Menezes that had the US goalkeeper stretched.