The transitive property is in tatters in Group A of the U-20 World Cup: Ukraine had the better of its game against New Zealand, but couldn't find the net; USA swaggered past the host nation, bagging a 4-0 victory. Clearly, USA is better than Ukraine, yes?
Not so fast: the Americans' opening game against Myanmar was a dogged fight back from a goal down to claim a narrow 2-1 win; the Ukrainians beat Myanmar 6-0. Recent results don't offer too much help in determining which of the two favored teams in Group A is better.
Unfortunately, the match between them may not answer the question either. Six points from its first two games has put USA top of the group and into the next round. Head coach Tab Ramos has the luxury of resting a few players, if he so chooses: his team can finish no worse than second in Group A and is guaranteed a place in the Round of 16.
The difference between top of the group and runner-up is the difference between playing the third-placed team in Group C, D or E and playing the second-placed team in Group C. There is no particular guarantee that one of those scenarios will be markedly better than the other, and Ramos has already lost one important player to injury - Maki Tall. He could be forgiven for opting to keep legs fresh and bodies out of harm's way for a dead-rubber group-stage match.
The same cannot be said, however, for Ukraine. If New Zealand is able to win big over Myanmar, a loss to USA could drop the Ukrainians to third in the group, and potentially leave them sweating over making the next round at all (though four points should be good enough to rank as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stage - the cut-off for knockout-round qualification).
So Ukraine should be chasing at least the point required to qualify for the Round of 16 automatically; USA might be tempted to look ahead and try to keep a little gas in the tank for the next stage of the tournament.