SCOTT PETERSON - Monday, June 24, 2013
Daniel Cuevas' late strike secured a lucky point for the US versus France Monday to keep hope alive in the group of death.
In a game that required a result, the US U-20 MNT came out flat and was thoroughly outplayed, before coming alive late to create a flurry of chances and steal a point late.
The opening 45 minutes saw the favored French assert themselves, especially in midfield, where Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba spearheaded a tenacious pressing effort to harry the US into a slew of turnovers.
France's advantage in possession, however, did not translate into many clear-cut scoring chances as the US defended effectively in the final third.
In fact France's best chance of the initial frame came courtesy of an atrocious back pass by Benji Joya, which set up French striker Yaya Sanogo and forced US keeper Cody Cropper into an alert save.
For their part, the US did not manage to get a shot on target until first-half stoppage time, when Luis Gil forced French keeper Alphonse Areola to make a save from close range.
In the 48th minute, France got the breakthrough as Javan Torre whiffed on the ball in the box and only clipped his man. Sanogo claimed the ball and converted the ensuing penalty by the narrowest of margins as Cropper got a hand to the penalty, but could not ultimately keep it out.
The US had a penalty of their own in the 65th minute with Mario Radriguez making the absolute most out of Mario Lemina's minimal contact in the area. Gil, however, did not take the most convincing of penalties and Areola denied him.
Two minutes later, France nearly doubled their advantage as Jean Baptiste Bahebeck did everything right but score as his stunning effort from 27 yards out was only denied by the crossbar.
In the 85th minute, the US equalized as Cuevas pounced on a loose ball in the box that France failed to deal with despite two cracks at a clearance. The diminutive Cuevas half-volleyed a right-footed effort inside the far post to keep the US tournament chances alive.
With the top four third place teams advancing to the round of 16, a victory over Ghana should be enough to advance to the round of 16.