The U.S. U-20 national team reached the last 16 of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday after a 4-0 win over host nation New Zealand in Group A.
After beating Myanmar 2-1 in their opening group game, Rab Ramos’ side turned on the style in their second match in front of over 15,000 home fans in Auckland.
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Rubio Rubin gave the U.S. the lead after six minutes as he tapped home Bradford Jamieson’s shot on the line, then captain Emerson Hyndman scored before the break to make it 2-0 at half time. New Zealand’s defense couldn’t handle the pace of Rubin who went close on several occasions, while Gedion Zealem was pulling the strings in midfield with some audacious trickery in and around the box.
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Club Tijuana winger Paul Arriola smashed in the USA’s third goal in the second half after being set up by Zelalem and Rubin rounded off the win late on as he pounced on some hesitant defending from the All Whites.
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In the second half U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen had to make a few saves but the hosts failed to score as the USA’s central defensive partnership of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga dominated the New Zealand attackers. Rubin was too much for New Zealand to handle as the FC Utrecht striker showed exactly why he has already made his full national team debut.
As for Arsenal’s German-born midfielder Zelalem, his performance will make most of the headlines as the man who was just granted a citizenship switch by FIFA from Germany to the U.S. looked comfortable on the ball, dinked in a perfect cross with a rabona and generally looked head and shoulders above the rest of the players on the pitch when in possession of the ball.
What a talent he seems to be.
Ramos’ side are the first to rubber-stamp their spot in the last 16 of the competition and it is the first time since 2007 — when Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu tore it up — that the U.S. has made it to the knockout stages of this competition.
An overwhelming feeling of satisfaction will greet Ramos, as a point in their final group game against Ukraine on Friday will guarantee top spot and an easier route through the knockout stages.
New Zealand: Oliver Sail; Jesse Edge, Sam Brotherton, Adam Mitchell, Deklan Wynne; Bill Poni Tuiloma, Joel Stevens (Andrew Blake, 63′), Moses Dyer, Clayton Lewis, Matthew Ridenton (Monty Patterson, 45′), Noah Billingsley (Stuart Holthusen, 82′)
USA: Zack Steffen; Desevio Payne, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga, Kellyn Acosta; Marco Delgado (Joel Sonora, 86′), Emerson Hyndman, Gedion Zelalem; Paul Arriola, Rubio Rubin (John Requejo, 84′), Brandon Jamieson (Tommy Thompson, 63′)
Goals: Rubin (6′, 83′), Hyndman (33′), Arriola (57′)