Mali shocks Ghana, Serbia beats Hungary in ET at U20 WCup
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) The knockout rounds of the Under-20 World Cup opened with a major upset Wednesday as Mali shocked Ghana 3-0, while Serbia staved off near-certain elimination to beat Hungary 2-1 in extra time.
Bence Mervo put underdog Hungary ahead with his fifth goal of the tournament in the 57th minute but Serbia, reduced to 10 men, equalized though Ivan Saponjic in stoppage time and took the match with a heart-breaking own goal by Attila Talaber in the 118th minute. Talaber was inconsolable when the final whistle sounded.
Mali defied all pre-match predictions when it outclassed Ghana. It was the first time Ghana's `Black Satellites' had fallen before the quarterfinals, and they won the tournament in 2009.
The cruel nature of knockout football was on show in the Serbia-Hungary clash at Dunedin. Serbia, which topped Group D and was heavily favored to beat a Hungary team which squeaked into the knockout stage via third place in Group E.
But Hungary stunned Serbia when Mervo swept a low cross into the net from close range in the second half. Hungary then defended intrepidly, resisting waves of Serbia attacks as the clock ticked down.
When Serbia's Milan Gajic was sent off for a second yellow card late, it appeared the favorite's hopes were at an end, but they conjured an equalizer just before the final whistle when Saponjic raced forward to head the ball past goalkeeper Gyorgy Szekely.
Extra time was near an end and penalties beckoning when Talaber attempted to clear a ball across the face of goal but succeeded only in lobbing it over the head of Szekely and into the net.
The goal sent Serbia into the quarterfinals, where they will face the winner of Wednesday's later match between the United States and Colombia.
Earlier, Mali took charge from the outset against Ghana, who seemed out of sorts in cold, wet and windy conditions in Wellington.
After several dangerous raids, Mali opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a superb goal to Diadie Samassekou. After a flurry of passes on the edge of the area with Adama Traore, Samassekou threaded a low shot between the near post and the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Lawrence Ati.
Defensive midfielder Souleymane Diarra pressed forward continually and forced two sharp saves from Ati. His powerful long-range strike was saved by the Ghana keeper and after eluding the defenders he forced another desperate save with a low shot at the near post.
Mali's relentless approach paid off again when Dieudonne Gbakle scored in the 53rd minute and Aboubacar Doumbia put the result beyond doubt when he netted in the 81st.
Mali will now face the winner of Thursday's glamor match between Germany and Nigeria in a quarterfinal at Christchurch on Sunday.