WELLINGTON: Big guns Brazil and Germany advanced at the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand on Thursday, as minnows Fiji notched their first-ever win in a FIFA tournament.
Five-time champions Brazil struggled to overcome a 10-man Hungary 2-1, while Germany dispatched Uzbekistan 3-0, with both teams making the round of 16.
Nigeria boosted their qualification chances with a 4-0 win over North Korea but the feel-good story of the round was Fiji’s 3-0 victory over Honduras.
The Pacific islanders waited 76 years to qualify for their first FIFA tournament, only to be thrashed 8-1 by Germany in their opening game.
Desperate to make amends, they threw caution to the wind against Honduras and attacked from the outset, showing no sign of the nerves that marred their first match.
Brazil were almost on the wrong end of an upset after falling behind to Hungary.
The Samba Kings were undone by a simple route one goal in the seventh minute, when the Hungarians pumped the ball forward from deep within their own half to Bence Mervo.
Mervo, a hat-trick hero against North Korea, sent a stinging shot that bobbled out of the keepers’ hands and over the line.
The Europeans were reduced to 10 men in the 16th minute when Krisztian Tamas received a second yellow but marshalled their defence to end the first half unscathed.
Brazilian skipper Danilo equalised in the 50th minute when he was given a free header off a corner.
But Brazil still struggled to find a winner until Andreas Pereira’s 86th minute penalty, awarded after Hungarian keeper Gyorgy Szekely was controversially ruled to have brought down Gabriel Jesus.
There were no such dramas for Germany, who comfortably sailed past Uzbekistan 3-0, including a goal in each half from Frankfurt’s Marc Stendera.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2015.
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