The United States Under-20 Men's National Team squeaked past Colombia in the Round of 16 to make this U-20 World Cup quarterfinal. But this is tournament soccer: there is no distinction between winning easy or ugly; moving on to the next round is what counts.
Almost all the teams remaining in this competition had close games in the first knockout round: Brazil and Senegal needed penalties to get by Uruguay and Ukraine, respectively; Portugal found an 87th-minute winner to beat New Zealand; Germany beat Nigeria 1-0. And Serbia, USA's quarterfinal opponent, found a stoppage time goal to force extra time against Hungary, then got a goal in the 118th minute for the win.
USA and Serbia met in a closed-door scrimmage as part of their respective warm-ups for this World Cup. The Serbs took that encounter, 1-0, but the true significance of the match is it means these teams are not unfamiliar to each other. Each will recall their last meeting and factor the experience into the necessary adjustments for the game ahead.
Any quarterfinal of a major tournament is important, but neither the USA or Serbia will be inclined to settle for having got this far. For the Americans, there is the chance to at least match the record of the 1989 cohort, which finished fourth at that year's U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia - the best-ever achievement in this competition by the USA. This is Serbia's first appearance in this event as an independent country, but it was part of Yugoslavia when that nation won the 1987 edition in Chile.
It is premature for either side to entertain dreams of winning this World Cup. Getting to the semifinal is the only task that matters right now, and both teams should not lack for motivation or focus in that regard.