The U.S. U20 Men’s National Team pulled off the biggest upset of the 2019 U20 World Cup on Tuesday with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over tournament favorites France. Sebastian Soto scored two of the goals. Former Indiana forward Justin Rennicks hit home the game-winner in the 83rd minute.
Amine Gouiri and Nabil Alioui scored for France. France maestro Moussa Diaby was involved in both goals.
USA faced an up-hill battle in the game from the start. The shorthanded USA side was missing two midfielders in Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin who were suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
France, the current leader in development in the world’s game and defending Men’s World Cup champion, dominated the early stages of the game and controlled over 75 percent of the possession through the first 15 minutes.
USA did not seem out of sorts letting France have the vast majority of the ball in the early stages. France had a couple of chances from defensive mistakes, but USA found success with the press. Timothy Weah created a chance for Richie Ledemza, Mendez’s replacement, early in the first half, but Ledezma missed the goal with his shot.
It was Durkin’s replacement Brandon Servania who was the key player on the opening goal. Servania won the ball in the 24th minute to stop a dangerous France attack, and also jumpstart the USA attack with numbers pushed up the field for France. Servania played the ball to Ledezma who raced up the field and then played a perfectly timed pass to former Real Salt Lake Academy teammate Sebastian Soto for the finish.
Gouiri found the equalizer for France before half. USA pressed up the field and did well to force France into a hopeful ball forward. However, left back Chris Gloster’s one-touch pass on the clearance did not find the intended target and sent France off to the races with the USA defense unbalanced. Diaby played his pass to Gouiri who had all day on the finish as Brady Scott elected to stay on his line and center back Aboubacar Keita was spun round on the entry pass.
France took the lead in the 55th minute. Diaby picked up the ball on the right wing and raced past Keita into the box. Diaby went low with his shot and it snuck past Scott’s hand, but hit off the post. The rebound fell to Alioui who smashed it past Sergino Dest and into the net.
USA head coach Tab Ramos went bold with his first change to the squad. Ramos elected to make a double substitution in the 63rd minutes with forwards Uly Llanez and Justin Rennicks coming on midfield Ledezma and Konrad de la Fuente. At the time USA was only trailing by one goal and it was a clear indication that USA was going to push forward for the final 27+ minutes of the game.
The move paid off. Llanez was the catalyst on the equalizer. He made a pair of French defenders miss and then played a square ball to Weah about 35 yards out from goal. Weah carved out a perfect pass to Soto to send him in free on goal. Soto hit home his second of the game.
USA did not settle for getting on level terms. The underdogs kept swinging and found the breakthrough in an unlikely moment. Dest tried his luck on a shot from 25 yards out. The right back struck the ball cleanly, but France goalkeeper Alban Lafont looked to be in the right place for the save.
However, Lafront spilled the rebound and Rennicks knocked home the rebound for the game-winning strike to send USA into the quarterfinal round.
USA will face Ecuador in the quarterfinal on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (PT). Ramos will have the full squad available for selection after no cards were awarded on Tuesday, which will force some tough decisions in squad selections after a number of terrific performances against France.