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2017 U-20 World Cup round-up, Group F, round 1: Senegal open with a win; Ecuador and USA tussle to a draw

Group F could be the most fun to watch at this tournament if the teams follow through on the promise of their opening games.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

While one would hesitate to pick any team from Group F to challenge for the 2017 Men's U-20 World Cup title, there looks to be sufficient quality in this group that the winner - at least - will emerge tested and in form. Momentum counts for a lot in the short sprint to the final, and one of the teams from this group should have plenty of momentum when the knockout rounds get started.

For now, the early evidence suggests these teams will combine for some of the more entertaining games of the group stage.

Ecuador 3-3 USA

The USA will be the happier of the two teams involved in this match. The Americans were twice beaten, and twice fought their way back to level terms.

Hernan Lino and Bryan Cabezas looked to have set Ecuador on a path to victory after they scored in the 5th and 7th minutes respectively. But 17-year-old Josh Sargent led the USA back to 2-2 with a brace, scoring in the 36th and 54th minutes.

USA 'keeper Jonathan Klinsmann won't hold on to his starting spot for long if he has any more games like this one. He was arguably fortunate Lino scored, since he fouled Washington Corozo in the build-up and would very likely have conceded a penalty if the ball hadn't found its way to the net moments later. And he gifted Ecuador a go-ahead goal in the 64th minute, failing to play his way out of pressure in his area and giving Cabezas the chance to score his second.

But the Americans showed resilience and discipline to stick to the task of getting back into the game. Luca de la Torre struck in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time - driving a poor clearance into the net - to square the game for the second and last time for the USA.

The Americans have some injury issues which perhaps help to explain the defensive frailties exploited by Ecuador. They kicked off this game with one of their best center-backs, Cameron Carter-Vickers, on the bench, and a starting full-back, Marlon Fossey, watching from home.

The back-line will need to get ready for another test: Senegal - the USA's next opponent - is just as capable as Ecuador of lasering in on a weak link in defense. But the USA will draw plenty of encouragement from the fight shown to get back into the game, and Sargent's youth looks destined to become quickly secondary to his scoring ability as the main talking point about the striker during this tournament.

Ecuador will perhaps be pleased to note that Saudi Arabia struggled to handle Senegal. The Saudis are Ecuador's next opponents, and whatever confidence was lost by the experience of coughing up leads against the USA could be regained in the next round of the games in Group F.

Senegal 2-0 Saudi Arabia

This game seems to have established two things: Senegal is up for this tournament and Saudi Arabia will struggle in this group.

Ibrahima Niane opened the scoring for Senegal with one of the goals of this World Cup to date: muscling his way on to a bouncing ball in the box and executing an on-the-run volley to perfection in the 13th minute. Two minutes later, Ousseynou Diagne produced a shot that would have been the goal of the game if Niane hadn't just scored one of the goals of the tournament.

Senegal spent much of the rest of the match missing easier chances. Saudi Arabia never really mustered a convincing challenge to the perception it had been well beaten by the two early goals.

Saudi Arabia will need to find a much better performance against Ecuador to counter the impression it is out of its depth in this group. And the USA's meeting with Senegal should be one of the games to look forward to in the next round of the group stage.

Next games in Group F:

  • Ecuador vs Saudi Arabia - 4:00 am, Eastern; Thursday, May 25
  • Senegal vs USA - 7:00 am, Eastern; Thursday, May 25