Enticing matchups set for round of 16 at Under-20 World Cup
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP):
The group stage of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup produced a number of major surprises, goals galore, and an equal number of enticing match-ups in the round of 16 starting tomorrow.
The biggest surprise in group play was the elimination of South American champions Argentina, which finished third in Group B with only two points after a loss to Ghana and draws with Austria and Panama.
The best of the match-ups in the round of 16 is likely to be the clash on Thursday between Germany and Nigeria - either of whom could go on to win the tournament.
The quality of soccer has also been outstanding despite the poor weather, with 244 goals scored in 36 matches at an average of almost seven per game.
European champions Germany have been the most dominant team so far, scoring 16 goals and conceding only two to top Group F, while Portugal scored 10 goals and gave up just one to finish with three wins in Group C.
Brazil scored nine goals and conceded three to top Group E with three wins, finishing just ahead of Nigeria. Serbia topped Group D with two wins.
Germany coach Frank Wormuth said he was pleased with his team's performance in the group stage but added that the knockout rounds would require even more focus and determination.
"The players have two different faces: in training they joke around a lot, but in the match they are absolutely focused," Wormuth said. "But we also know that we still have to improve. There is still a lot of work to do."
Brazil coach Rogerio Micale said achieving first place in Group E was "mission accomplished" for his team, but he is aiming to go even further in the tournament. The Brazilians meet Uruguay in the round of 16 on Thursday.
"We were in a strong group with difficult games and we played very well," Micale said. "I believe that we have a chance to win this title, but Serbia are a team to watch."