(Photo Credit: Marcelo Endelli – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
New Zealand’s 2023 FIFA U20 campaign hangs in the balance following a defeat to host nation Argentina in San Juan
The Kiwis struggled in the first half as Argentina imposed a relentless pressing and passing game that saw them dominate possession for the majority of the first 45 minutes, eventually leading to a one-two punch of goals in the 14th and 17th minutes.
First, a short corner routine saw Brian Aguirre cause havoc down New Zealand’s right, clipping a far post cross for Ignacio Maestro Puch to head home. Only a couple of minutes passed before the lead was doubled, again down the Kiwis’ right-hand flank, with Luka Romero turning provider as his slide-rule pass found Gino Infantino, who’s low drive nestled in the far corner.
The best of the opening stanza was yet to come though. The mountain to climb became even bigger for New Zealand, when Luka Romero smartly turned away from three opposition midfielders before advancing to within 30m and drilling a long-range drive past goalkeeper Kees Sims and into the top-corner. Surely a contender for goal of the tournament.
The second-half couldn’t have started any worse for New Zealand when a VAR review led to Argentina being awarded penalty following a handball by Aaryan Raj. The spot-kick duly converted by Brian Aguirre.
New Zealand withstood further Argentinian offence until the 87th minute, when substitute Maximo Perrone’s outstanding left-footed cross found the head of fellow reinforcement, Alejo Veliz who powered home to make it 5-0.
As a result of the loss New Zealand fell to third in the final standings in group A, which means they need a better record then two of the other five third-placed teams to advance alongside the 12 group winners and runners-up.
Argentina: 5 (Ignacio MAESTRO PUCH 14′, Gino INFANTINO 17′, Luke ROMERO 35′, Brian AGUIRRE 50′, Alejo VELIZ 87′)