USA knocked out of U20 World Cup after suffering PK heartbreak
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- USA were dumped out of the Under-20 World Cup at the quarterfinal stage on penalties at the hands of Serbia, despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
The Freiburg stopper made a pair of penalty shootout saves to keep the Americans alive after the match had been locked at 0-0 at the end of extra-time, but his team mates were unable to capitalize and the Serbs held their nerve to finish 6-5 winners.
Elsewhere, African countries captured two semifinal places at the as Mali and Senegal kept up their surprising run in the tournament.
Mali pulled off their biggest upset yet by beating European champions Germany 4-3 on penalties while Senegal beat Uzbekistan 1-0 for the only regulation-time win in Sunday's quarterfinals, three of which were decided in shootouts.
Five-time champions Brazil were taken to penalties for the second match in a row before beating Portugal 3-1 following another 0-0 draw. Serbia will play Mali and Brazil will play Senegal in Wednesday's semifinals.
Brazil are the last of football's superpowers remaining in the tournament. South American champions Argentina failed to progress from group play along with Central America's champions Mexico. Former champions Ghana and front-runners Nigeria both fell in the round of 16, which also claimed 2013 finalists Uruguay.
While Brazil and Serbia qualified for the last 16 at the top of their groups, Mali and Senegal needed tiebreakers after both won one and drew one of their three group matches.
Brazil have found goal-scoring increasingly difficult as the tournament has progressed but has been efficient in shootouts. Brazil looked tired after being taken to penalties by Uruguay three days ago, and Portugal dominated much of the game but wasted a number of chances. In the shootout, Lucao missed the second penalty for Brazil but Raphael Guzzo, Andre Silva and Nuno Santos all missed for Portugal, allowing captain Danilo and Gabriel Jesus to send the Brazilians through.
"Everyone saw what happened but in the end we were able to celebrate in the penalty shootout," Brazil coach Rogerio Micale said. "Portugal created more in front of goal than we did and deserved to win today."
Portugal coach Helio Sousa was left to regret his team's failure to "finish off everything we created."
"We stamped our authority on the game, we were better in every area but we just couldn't score," he said.
Germany led 1-0 after the first half and also missed a penalty in regulation time before coming up short in the shootout. The penalty shootout was level at 3-3 when Mali baulked first with a miss. With the game there for the taking, two German players missed their shots and Mali progressed.
"We didn't lose the match because of the opponent, we lost it because of penalties," Germany coach Frank Wormuth said. "At the end it's luck to win."
Mamadou Thiam scored in the 76th minute to send first-time qualifiers Senegal to the last four. Uzbekistan had been kept in the match by goalkeeper Dilshod Khamraev, who pulled off a series of remarkable saves before Thiam's combination with Remi Nassalan created the winning goal.
"We have prayed a lot since the beginning of the competition and particularly in the last few days," Senegal coach Joseph Koto said. "Most importantly I want to congratulate my players because they truly played a heroic match today."
Serbia advanced to their maiden World Cup semifinal after a marathon shootout against the U.S. The match needed 18 penalties to decide a victor.
Serbia held the Americans to just two shots on target in the game.
"Today we won an important game and defeated a very good team in the United States. I think it was a very even game for both teams," Serbia coach Veljko Paunovic's said. "In the end, I think we were lucky with the penalties."