Mexico, Portugal winners at U-20 World Cup
Mexico used three second-half goals to down Gambia 3-0 in Group C action at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Toronto on Monday.
On paper the game appeared to be a mismatch, pitting Mexico, winners of the under-17 world title in 2005, against a Gambia team making its first appearance in a FIFA U-20 World Cup.
But Gambia fought valiantly in a game where it played better than the score suggested and showed little fear against a Mexican team that's among the favourites to win the tournament.
"Gambia are a very good team," said Mexicocoach Jesus Ramirez. "They were better than us in the first half but we were able to adjust to deal with them in the second half."
Gambia had a chance to take the lead in the 11th minute when Pa Modou Jagne's header flashed off the post and came back into the penalty box before it was cleared by Mexico. The Mexicans lived dangerously again in the 19th minute when the defence failed to corral a high ball that bounced wide.
Mexico replied with its best chance in the first half when forward Giovanni dos Santos timed a run in the 18-yard box perfectly to stay onside and found himself with a wide open chance from just a few yards out, but his shot went wide, hitting the side netting.
The action went back and forth from that point, with both teams narrowly missing quality chances.
A poorly played corner kick by Gambia's goalkeeper in the 27th minute resulted in a Mexican header that had to be cleared off the line by defender Pierre Gomez. Midfielder Cesar Villaluz missed another opportunity to put Mexico ahead in the 30th minute when a shot from inside the penalty box went wide.
"We didn't concentrate enough early on, and the Mexicans took their chances. For us, this result is very disappointing," said Gambia's goalkeeper Joseph Gomez.
Gambia's Ousman Jallow missed with a diving header from Ousman Jallow in the 39th minute that was caught by Mexican goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco.
Blanco was pressed into action just two minutes later, reaching high to knock a long-range blast from Alagie Ngum over the bar.
The 0-0 deadlock wouldn't be broken until the 57th minute, when dos Santos beat a Gambian defender to the ball after a poor defensive header and struck a potent volley over Gomez.
"To be honest, when the ball came to me I didn't even think twice about hitting it or where I was, I just knew I needed to try and shoot," said dos Santos."I'm so happy it went in."
Mexico doubled its lead just 10 minutes later after a wild sequence in the penalty box that saw Mexico hit the bar, Gomez dive to make a save on a rebound and a defender clear another subsequent shot until defender Hector Moreno put home the loose ball.
Substitute Javier Hernandez sealed the game for Mexico in the 89th minute as he took a long pass and avoided a charging Gomez before scoring to put the lead at 3-0.
"We lost our footing a bit in the second half and we were punished for our mistakes," said Gambia coach Peter Bonu Jonson. "I was happy with the way we played in the first half and we were unlucky not to score but in the second we lost concentration in midfield."
Portugal downs New Zealand, 2-0
Is Bruno Gama the next Luis Figo?
The Portuguese captain showed why he is being touted as one of the best players in this tournament by scoring twice to power Portugal to a 2-0 win over New Zealand in Toronto on Monday at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
With equal parts style and grace, Gama ran the New Zealand defence ragged with his inventive and creative runs, much like Figo did with opponents 16 years ago when he helped Portugal's Golden Generation team win its second consecutive World Youth Championship.
Portugal dominatedits Group C foes from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, barely giving the Kiwis a sniff of the ball.
"We won the match and that's what we expected," said Portugal coach Jose Couceiro.
"We were the best team on the pitch and we had more quality. It's important to win the first match and we're happy we did, but we made some mistakes too and were lucky that we were not punished. We'll try to do better in the next matches."
The Portuguese had no problems carving out chances thanks to the inspired play of Fabio Coentrao down the left wing and Gama through the middle.
Toronto-born defender Steven Vitoria started the game on Portugal's substitute bench but did not see any action.
Making its U-20 World Cup debut, New Zealand received a big blow when Chris James returned home for personal reasons just days before the competition began. The loss of the influential playmaker showed against Portugal, as the Kiwis struggled to retain possession or create any dangerous scoring chances.
The opening goal came in the 45th minute after New Zealand defender Ian Hogg earned a controversial yellow card for a foul just outside the penalty area. Gama stepped up and stroked a gorgeous free kick from 20 yards out into the corner of the net past diving Kiwi goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley.
"I love the fans in Canada," said Gama. "The way they supported us was just amazing today. Our goal here at these finals is to win every game, including the final, and hopefully I can score more goals like I did tonight on the way there."
Gama added a second goal in the 61st minute on a strange penalty call where Hogg again was the culprit.
Teammate Zequinha was tripped up inside the penalty box by the New Zealand defender, but the Colombian referee let the play continue for several seconds before awarding the penalty shot. Gama scuffed his effort past Spoonley to make it 2-0 for Portugal and put the game away.
Jeremy Brockie had a great chance to score in the final minutes with Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio out of his net, but the New Zealand forward chipped his shot just over the crossbar.
"Portugal is a world class side," said New Zealand coach Stu Jacobs. "They won the U-20 twice. We did OK until the 45th minute when they got a goal from a free kick. We will take a lot of positive aspects out of our performance today; we did well and even missed some big chances at the end. Let's take as much experience as we can back to New Zealand."
Portugal's next game is against Mexico in Toronto on Thursday (CBC Country Canada, 7:45 p.m. ET). New Zealand takes on Gambia in Toronto the same day (CBC, 5 p.m. ET).