Brazil routs Senegal, Serbia ousts Mali to reach U-20 World Cup final
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Brazil beat Senegal 5-0 to join Serbia in the final of the Under-20 World Cup and bury on Wednesday the nascent suspicion football's great expressionists had embarked on a new, more sober course.
After its latest matches against Uruguay and Portugal were scoreless and decided in penalty shootouts, speculation grew that a new generation was ushering in a more defensive style.
A theory that Brazil's 7-1 loss to Germany at least year's senior World Cup forced a general reappraisal of its direction — a new emphasis on defense over attack — grew as goals dried up.
Brazil exploded that theory on Wednesday, striking three times in the first 19 minutes to earn its final place opposite Serbia, which beat Mali 2-1 in extra time.
While Brazil was a team transformed, Serbia continued its steady progress to the final; playing sound defense and showing an ability — rare at this tournament — to clinically convert a few scoring chances.
An early goal to Andrija Zivkovic set the tone early for an imposing Serbian performance but Youssouf Kone's equalizer helped Mali regain its confidence.
The second half was played at a frantic pace and Mali had the best of it but neither side created the decisive goal. In extra time Milos Veljkovic's header found Ivan Saponjic, who nodded the ball past Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra.
Kone received a second yellow card six minutes from time to all but end Mali's hopes, and the team's performance dissolved in bizarre scenes of petulance and recrimination.
Mali players including Kone and Diarra confronted referee Mauro Vigliano after Kone's second yellow for a foul. As the scene became more heated, Vigliano tried to move away and Kone appeared to grab his shoulder from behind. Kone eventually left, but took the longest route possible around the field. Diarra received a yellow card for his dissent.
Five-time champion Brazil took all of its chances to advance to the final for the ninth time and to end the remarkable run of first-time qualifier Senegal.
Brazil rushed out to a two-goal lead after seven minutes, before adding a third in the 19th minute, all but ending Senegal's challenge.
An attack down the right flank by Joao Pedro was followed by an innocuous pass into the middle which deflected off Senegal defender Andelinou Correa's heel into goal.
Two minutes later, three Brazil players found themselves with an overlap on a fast break and Gabriel Jesus held his nerve while Marcus Guilherme found space and blasted home.
Another soft shot along the ground from the flank was only partially stopped by a sprawling Ibrahima Sy, the Senegalese keeper, directly into the path of Brazil midfielder Boschilia, who scored.
Brazil added a fourth in the 35th through Jorge.
The second half lost some structure but the South Americans added their fifth after clever interplay allowed Guilherme to tap in his second in the 78th.
As good as Brazil was on attack, its defense has been its real strength; it has played 8 hours, 22 minutessince it last conceded a goal. Coach Rogerio Micale was relieved, after two penalty shootouts, to see his team win so emphatically.
"We won those games in penalties and it was close but we've been creating plenty of chances," he said. "Today we scored them.
"Everybody was perfect today. We have grown during the competition ... we've reached the final with a huge game today, and we expect to do it again in the final."