Time flies when the kids are having fun, and there’s been no shortage of entertainment in this first week of action at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. From absolute screamers and dazzling dribbles to some great saves in between, here are some of the plays you don’t want to miss, from Day 1 all the way to last night’s games.
Japan starts out in style
They started out as an outside challenger to the title, but landed in a tricky group with Senegal, Colombia and Israel. They needed to hit the ground running, something they accomplished thanks to this great strike by midfielder Kuryu Matsuki.
Italy’s safe hands
Italy v. Brazil is as storied a rivalry as any in football, and the young Azzurri added another chapter to its ilustrious history with a fantastic debut win. If not for goalkeeper Sebastiano Desplanches, however, things could have gone very differently.
A Kiwi bomb
New Zealand has a good chance of qualifying as one of the best 3rd teams if results go their way, a worthy outcome in no small part thanks to goals like this one by midfielder Jay Herdman, arguably one of the best goals of the tournament.
Soulé’s tango on the field
Even though Argentina initially failed to qualify to the U-20 World Cup, as hosts of the tournament they have gone from strength to strength since the beginning, and its players are growing more and more confident, as evidenced by this lovely move by Matias Soulé.
Maté gets it done in Argentina
Slovakia’s losses at the hands of Ecuador and the US mean it’ll need some luck in order to qualify for the next round, but the group phase games were enough for midfielder Máté Szolgai to show off his chops with this thunderous strike.
Gomes Gerth is flying high
It hasn’t been a perfect tournament for Argentina’s goalkeeper Federico Gomes Gerth, who’s had some mishaps and bloopers along the way. However, he’s also proven to be capable of outstanding saves like this one against Guatemala
Honduras’s give and go
The Honduran team was unlucky in getting only a draw against South Korea, who toughed it out despite being a man down since the 27th minute. This beautiful combination between striker Daniel Carter and midfielder Isaac Castillo shows how much talent the team has.
Slonina won’t be outsmarted
US and Chelsea prodigy Gabriel Slonina is shaping up to be one of the tournament’s best goalkeepers, particularly with performances like the one he had against Slovakia. The game could’ve gone either way, especially if Slonina had not been on point in this instance, where he saved an “Olympic” goal.
Say hello to the fabulous Román Vega
Argentina wrapped up its group stage matches with a resounding win against New Zealand. Head coach Javier Mascherano’s squad looks far from the timid team of its debut, as evidenced by this sequence of Román Vega unleashing his entire bag of tricks.
Ecuador’s historic win against Fiji
Ecuador had one of the games of the tournament against Fiji. The Tricolor won 9-0 and made history as the second biggest blowout by a South American team in FIFA U-20 World Cup history, just one goal shy of Brazil’s 1997 10-0 battering of Belgium. With moves like this by striker José Klinger, it’s no surprise the Fiji team had no answers.
Sims trying his best
Even though New Zealand goalie Kees Sims was on the receiving end of a five-goal drumming, that doesn’t mean he had a bad game. Argentina kept him very busy all game long, but he came up with some big saves to help his team, like this excellent reaction to a volley by Argentina’s Luka Romero, possibly his best one of the day.
The revenge of Luka Romero
Of course, there’s only so much Sims or anybody can do when facing shots like this one from Luka Romero. The Mexican-born Argentine winger started dribbling in his own half and settled matters with a 20-meter bomb to make it 3-0 for the Albiceleste. Another strong candidate for best goal of the tournament.