BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — An injury-time goal gave the United States a 1-0 victory against Ecuador in one of the opening games of the U20 World Cup on Saturday. Hours later, hosts Argentina beat Asian champions Uzbekistan 2-1.
While the Argentines go top of Group A on goal difference, Team US finished the first round of the tournament in second place in Group B after Slovakia beat Fiji 4-0.
The American win in San Juan came after 90 minutes with little inspiration from either team. Left back Jonathan Gomez shot from the edge of the box a minute before the final whistle to beat goalkeeper Gilmar Napa.
Until Gomez’s winner was the best option on the hour after an embarrassing error from Ecuador’s Napa. His clearance hit his defender Christian Garcia in the face. The ball fell to the American striker Diego Luna, who despite the empty goal shot wide.
Ecuador, which includes teenage sensation striker Kendry Paez, did not produce a single shot on target.
The first goal of the tournament came from New Zealand – Norman Garbett struck the winner in the 80th minute to beat Guatemala in a Group A match.
Later, Argentina beat Uzbekistan in a match with three goals in the first half. Makhmudjon Makhamadjonov opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a low-angle left-foot cross. Argentine players just saw the ball go into the back of the net; they mistakenly thought the Uzbek was offside.
Argentina equalized four minutes later with another strange goal. A header by Alejo Veliz looked to be headed for an easy save. But the touch from goalkeeper Otabek Boymurodov was not enough to push the ball over the crossbar. He just watched as it carefully crossed the finish line.
Valentin Carboni scored Argentina’s second in the 41st minute after moving easily on the right side of the Uzbek penalty area. No. 10 took a powerful left foot shot from close range and Boymurodov barely moved.
“The first game is the one that brings the most nerves,” Argentina coach Javier Mascherano said. “We knew Uzbekistan would be a tough rival, they are the champions of Asia.”
The next round in Group A will be played on Tuesday. Argentina will likely advance to the playoffs with a win against Guatemala. Uzbekistan will look to bounce back against New Zealand.
On the same day, the USA could also secure its place in the next round with a win against Fiji. The same could happen to Slovakia in its match against Ecuador.
Slovakia’s goals were scored by Adam Gazi (17th minute), Mate Szolgai (25th), Artur Gajdos (70th) and Timotej Jambor.
Argentina took Indonesia’s place in the tournament as hosts. Protests in Muslim-majority Indonesia against hosting Israel forced FIFA to make a very late change of venues. Indonesia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
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