BYDGOSZCZ, Poland — The U.S. shocked tournament favorite France with a 3-2 comeback victory at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup Tuesday.
Two goals from Sebastian Soto, who is tied for second in the Golden Boot race with four goals, and a late game-winner from Justin Rennicks made the U.S.the only nation to have qualified for the last three U-20 World Cup quarterfinals.
Rennicks snapped a 2-2 deadlock in the 83rd minute.
After battling France in 86 degree heat, the Americans will have three days to recuperate before tackling Ecuador in Saturday’s quarterfinal at 11:30 a.m. ET in Gdynia, Poland. The game will be broadcast on the FS2 and the Universo family of networks.
It was a well-played game, with not one card handed out by Brazilian referee Raphael Claus. Despite missing two important players in Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin due to yellow-card suspensions, the U.S. started brightly with Tim Weah causing a turnover on edge of France’s penalty area in the 13th minute. Richie Ledezma, who was drafted into the starting line-up in place of Mendez, corralled the loose ball and barley put his shot wide of the far left post.
Minutes later, Weah was at it again. After a long cross-field pass from captain Paxton Pomykal, Weah split two defenders and chipped the goalkeeper but was unable to catch the ball before a defender recovered to clear it.
France began to find its offense and carved out two chances just after the 20-minute mark. The first forced U.S. goalkeeper Brady Scott into a low save, while the other was headed just over the bar.
As France continued to attack, the U.S. stifled it build-up and countered quickly as Ledezma carried the ball through midfield before splitting the France center backs with a pass for Soto. The Americans’ leading scorer curled a shot around goalkeeper Alban Lafont into the bottom right corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The French hit the base of the right post before scoring in the 41st minute. A throw-in led to a break out at midfield and Moussa Diaby fed Amine Gouiri, who finished over a charging Scott to tie it.
Ten minutes after the restart, Diaby rounded the corner of the U.S. defense and raced in on goal. He slid a shot under Scott that hit the post and rebounded into the center of the box where Nabil Alioui beat a sliding challenge from Sergino Dest to smash the ball into the net for the 2-1 lead.
U.S. head coach Tab Ramos, who has guided the U-20 MNT to successful results at the tournament since qualifying for the 2015 quarterfinals, turned to his bench, bringing on two attacking subs in Ulysses Llanez and Rennicks in the 63rd minute.
The offensive switches began to pay off in the 74th when the Americans worked the ball up the left touchline and inside to Llanez who centered for Weah at the top of the box. Weah picked out Soto just off the shoulder of the last defender and the striker powered the equalizer past Lafont.
With the match looking like it was headed to extra time, Pomykal won possession in midfield before the ball was worked to Weah, whose shot from distance was blocked by a defender. The rebound fell to Sergino Dest, who also ripped a shot from long range that forced Lafont into a diving save. He did not handle the shot cleanly, and the ball dropped near the left post for the crashing Rennicks to smash home the winning goal.