Group F has set itself up for an interesting finale. The quartet of teams in this group each have something to recommend them. Senegal, Saudi Arabia, and Ecuador came to this tournament as the second-best teams out of their respective qualifying competitions; the USA is the CONCACAF champion. No team in this group is regarded as a real threat to win the 2017 Men's U-20 World Cup, but each might be regarded as a dangerous opponent in the knockout rounds. First, however, they need to find a way past each other, and results to date suggest these are closely-matched teams.
The round of 16 isn't out of reach for any team in Group F, which means the final round of games should remain competitive and difficult to predict, much like the all the matches in this group to date.
Saudi Arabia 2-1 Ecuador
Given a chance, Saudi Arabia can play. Ecuador didn't give the Saudis many chances, but they gave them enough: Abdulrahman Al-Yami scored in the 7th and 84th minutes. In between, 'keeper Amin Al-Bukhari saved every shot Ecuador put on target - including a penalty. His resistance was finally broken by Jordy Caicedo in the 89th minute, but the Saudis saw out the match to claim three points.
Ecuador must be wondering what it has to do to win a game at this World Cup. Three goals against the USA could only secure a point in the team's opening match of the group stage; 24 shots - 10 on target - brought just one goal and no points against Saudi Arabia. Ecuador could still leapfrog from bottom of Group F to second with a win over Senegal and the right result in the game between Saudi Arabia and the USA. But no team in this group is entirely secure in its position, and Ecuador will likely find Senegal has as much fight as its first two opponents.
For Saudi Arabia, this rearguard victory will surely have inspired confidence. The team can't rely on its 'keeper playing the game of his life in every match, nor will it want to hand almost 70% possession to every opponent, but it has three points and a fighting chance of making the next round if it can find its way to a positive result against the USA on May 28.
USA 1-0 Senegal
After snatching a point from the jaws of defeat against Ecuador in its opening game, there was concern that the USA might be a little under-cooked for this tournament. Worse, the team's preparations have been beset by injuries: Marlon Fossey was a late scratch before the World Cup started; Cameron Carter-Vickers and Justen Glad weren't fit to start the opening game; Gedion Zelalem's tournament is over after just 30-odd minutes against Ecuador.
But the USA needed some time to warm up in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and it seems to be much the same story at this World Cup. Disaster was averted against Ecuador, and the team showed up for its second game with Carter-Vickers back in the lineup and Glad at least able to contribute a few minutes off the bench. The knock on the USA after the Ecuador game was its defense, but a clean sheet against Senegal and the return of a couple of its better-regarded defenders suggests the team is not irreparably hindered by the weaknesses exposed in its opening game.
And it has at least one star emerging just in time to make an impact on this competition: 17-year-old Josh Sargent scored the winner - his third goal in two games at this level. And both those games happen to have been at this World Cup.
Of the teams in Group F, the USA can perhaps feel most confident about being in the next round: a draw against Saudi Arabia will guarantee a place in the knockout rounds, and the four points it has already could be enough with the right mix of results in other games.
Senegal will reflect on a game in which it landed only two shots on target and trust Ecuador's defense will be a little more generous on May 28. A win in that match definitely sees the team through to the round of 16; a draw might be enough if it gets a little help from other results.
- Ecuador vs Senegal - 5:00 am, Eastern; Sunday, May 28
- Saudi Arabia vs USA - 5:00 am, Eastern; Sunday, May 28