U.S., Serbia lead way into U-20 World Cup quarters

Rubin was at his predatory best when he fired a rocket into the roof of the net from 12 yards in the 58th minute to score the all-important goal.

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Tab Ramos’s side were reduced to 10 men in the final 10 minutes when Kellyn Perry-Acosta conceded a penalty and received his second yellow, though Steffen saved the spot kick from Jarlan Barrera, who was inconsolable at the game’s end.

The U.S. will next meet Serbia, who made the last eight in their first appearance at the tournament as an independent nation, after an 118th-minute own goal by Hungary defender Attila Talaber handed the Serbs a 2-1 victory in Dunedin.

Diadie Samassekou, Dieudonne Gbakle and Aboubabacar Doumbia all scored to give Mali a surprise 3-0 victory over 2009 champions Ghana, who had been one of the more impressive sides in the tournament in New Zealand.

Senegal beat Ukraine 3-1 on penalties after goalkeeper Ibrahima Sy saved three shots in the shootout to advance to the last eight after their match had ended 1-1 after extra time.

Sy had thrived on the pressure and played to the decent-sized crowd in Auckland that went a little way to allay fears the tournament was failing to attract the attention of fans in rugby-mad New Zealand.

With the June 20 final at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland already declared a sell-out, organisers had been hoping the start of the knockout phase would push them closer to an ‘aspirational’ target of 500,000 fans attending matches.

The game between Serbia and Hungary at Dunedin’s indoor stadium attracted 5,149 spectators, while 2,235 turned up for the early game at Wellington Regional Stadium between Mali and Ghana.

The U.S.-Colombia match, which was spiced up with off the ball incidents, attracted a large group of Colombian supporters, who added to the noise level in Wellington and swelled the crowd to 6,062, after the Mali-Ghana game had been played in cold and wet conditions.

The weather has affected the crowds at all of the games in Wellington, with FIFA statistics for the Austria-Panama group match on June 2 putting it at 2,009, the smallest crowd at the 35,000-capacity venue.

Local organising committee head Dave Beeche had earlier told Reuters that poor weather was always a factor in ticket sales in New Zealand’s capital, no matter what sport was played at Wellington Regional Stadium.

Beeche had hoped to have about 500,000 fans through the gates for the 52 games at the seven venues.

Local organisers said more than 170,000 people had attended the 36 group phase matches. About one-third of those had been at the three New Zealand games.

According to FIFA’s statistics, which differ slightly from the local organisers, the smallest crowd of 1115 was at the Nigeria-North Korea game in New Plymouth.

The opening match between the Junior All Whites and Ukraine was the largest with a sell-out of 25,000 at North Harbour Stadium.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty/Sudipto Ganguly)

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