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2017 U-20 World Cup round-up, Group D, round 1: Uruguay serves notice, Japan holds its nerve

Two champions of the qualifying tournaments showed their class in the opening games of Group D.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Group D looks like the 2017 U-20 World Cup's true Group of Death, with the Asia and South American qualifying champions joined by the runner-up from the UEFA qualifiers and AFCON U-20 surprise package South Africa. The teams that get out of this group will be confident they have already been well tested.

Japan 2-1 South Africa

South Africa was in front after seven minutes, triggering memories of the scoring cascade that saw the team through to the semifinals of the 2017 AFCON U-20 tournament.

But Japan was not unduly shaken by conceding an early goal. Koki Ogawa equalized in the 48th minute and Ritsu Doan found the match-winner in the 72nd minute.

Uruguay and Italy will be bigger tests for both teams. South Africa, in particular, will need to improve its defense substantially if it is to have an impact on this group.

Uruguay 1-0 Italy

Italian 'keeper Andrea Zaccagno was in such fine form in this game he didn't just save a penalty, he caught it. It took a remarkable, swerving free kick from Rodrigo Amaral for Uruguay to breach Italy's last line of defense. It was a worthy match-winner and Uruguay's relentless attacking was surely worth at least a goal.

But Italy will feel it should have got a point out of this game, and if Uruguay is one of the tournament favorites, this match suggested the Italians are also among the best teams at this competition - as long as Zaccagno stays hot in goal.

Next games in Group D:

  • South Africa vs Italy - 4:00 am, Eastern; Wednesday, May 24
  • Uruguay vs Japan - 7:00 am, Eastern; Wednesday, May 24