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2017 U-20 World Cup round-up, round of 16: Portugal knocks out South Korea

Watch out, U-20 World Cup: Portugal seems to have woken up.

Eric Seals-USA TODAY Sports

There are four players in Portugal's squad at the 2017 Men's U-20 World Cup who are not attached to one of the country's big three clubs: Benfica, Sporting, or Porto. And it was one of those players - Braga's Xadas - who sparked Portugal to its biggest and most comfortable win of this competition to date.

For a team that was only in the round of 16 thanks to a late own-goal in its last game of the group stage, the apparent discovery of form and confidence was in the nick of time. South Korea was unfortunate to be the first opponent to run into this Portugal, rather than the striving, misfiring version that struggled through Group C of the tournament.

Xadas showed his teammates the way, firing a first-time shot on target and into the net in the 10th minute. Bruno Costa followed the example in the 23rd minute. Portugal had a 2-0 lead and the home team on its heels with three-quarters of the match still to play. A combination of luck and good goalkeeping kept the Koreans from falling further behind, and they were able to create chances when not frantically defending. But Xadas settled the match in the 69th minute, dribbling through the Korean defense and finding his second with another sharp finish.

Lee Sang-heon found the consolation goal for the home team in the 81st minute. The 3-1 win sent a warning to the rest of the field: lackluster Portugal might have woken up for the knockout rounds.

The loss of the home team and the big crowds that turned out to watch it play is a blow to the World Cup: there were more than 20,000 at this game, and just 2,000 or so reportedly turned up to watch Venezuela play Japan in the other round of 16 match played on May 30.

But the tournament is not a popularity contest. On the field, on the day, Portugal was the better team. And it is Portugal that advances to the quarterfinals, where it will play either (most likely) Uruguay or Saudi Arabia.