(Photo Credit: Buda Mendes – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
New Zealand have bowed out of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup following a 4-0 defeat to USA in Mendoza, Argentina on Wednesday morning.
The Kiwis had qualified following a third-place finish in Group A with four points, enough to secure a Round of 16 place against an American side who had impressed with three wins from three in Group B.
Having reached this stage of the competition on three previous occasions, New Zealand were keen to go one stage further and almost had a dream start when Norman Garbett found Jay Herdman, who – having created space for himself – saw his effort saved well by goalkeeper Gaga Slonina.
It would prove to be one of few attacking endeavours however for New Zealand, as USA began to assert their dominance on proceedings, controlling possession and eventually finding the breakthrough in the 14th minute, when Owen Wolff’s low shot found its’ way past Kees Sims.
Despite ceding much of the territory and control of the game, the Kiwis were able to hold out until after the hour mark before their opponents added a second. Cade Cowell, who had gone close minutes earlier, found too much space following a pass from Diego Luna and his left-footed drive back across the goal gave USA a 2-0 lead.
New Zealand struggled to make much headway as the match neared its’ conclusion and any hope of a revival was swiftly dealt a crushing blow with a third American strike. Diego Luna was again at the centre of the attack, feeding Cade Cowell, who’s cutback eventually found its way to Justin Che to convert a third goal and put the match out of reach of New Zealand.
A fourth arrived late on in the piece. An outstanding free-kick from defender Brandan Craig evaded the New Zealand defence and over the grasp of Sims, right onto the head of substitute Rokas Pukstas, who couldn’t miss from yards out, to put a seal on the victory.
For New Zealand, a Round of 16 appearance is again the end of their U-20 journey, in what has been a tough assignment in Argentina. For USA, a quarter-final beckons against either The Gambia or Uruguay in Santiago del Estero.
USA: 4 (Owen WOLFF 14′, Cade COWELL 61′, Justin CHE 75′, Rokas PUKSTAS 82′.
New Zealand: 0