BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – An injury-time goal gave the United States a 1-0 win against Ecuador in one of the opening matches of the Under-20 World Cup on Saturday. Hours later, host Argentina beat Asian champions Uzbekistan 2-1.
While the Argentinians go to the top of Group A on goal difference, team U.S. ended the first round of the tournament in second place in Group B after Slovakia beat Fiji 4-0.
The American victory in San Juan came after 90 minutes of little inspiration from both teams. Left back Jonathan Gomez shot from the edge of the box one minute before the final whistle to beat goalkeeper Gilmar Napa.
Until Gomez’s winner, the best opportunity was on the hour after an embarrassing mistake by Ecuador’s Napa. His clearance hit his defender Christian Garcia in the face. The ball fell to American striker Diego Luna, who shot wide despite the empty goal.
Ecuador, which includes teenage sensation striker Kendry Paez, did not produce a single shot on target.
The first goal of the tournament came from New Zealand — Norman Garbett netted the winner in the 80th minute to beat Guatemala in a Group A game.
Later, Argentina beat Uzbekistan in a match with three goals in the first half. Makhmudjon Makhamadjonov opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a crossed left foot shot with little angle. Argentinian players just watched the ball go to the back of the net; they mistakenly believed the Uzbek was offside.
Argentina equalized four minutes later with another strange goal. A header by Alejo Veliz appeared to be bound for an easy save. But the touch of goalkeeper Otabek Boymurodov was not enough to push the ball over the bar. He just watched as it gently passed the goal line.
Valentin Carboni scored Argentina’s second in the 41st minute after easily moving on the right side of the Uzbek penalty box. The number 10 took a powerful left-foot shot from close range, and Boymurodov barely moved.
“The first match is the one that brings the most nerves,” said Argentinian coach Javier Mascherano. “We knew Uzbekistan would be a tough rival, they are the champions of Asia.”
The next round of Group A will be played on Tuesday. Argentina is likely to advance to the playoffs with a win against Guatemala. Uzbekistan will try to recover against New Zealand.
On the same day, the US could also secure its spot in the next round with a win against Fiji. The same could happen to Slovakia in its match against Ecuador.
Slovakia’s goals were scored by Adam Gazi (17th minute), Mate Szolgai (25), Artur Gajdos (70) and Timotej Jambor.
Argentina took Indonesia’s spot in the tournament as host. Protests in Muslim-majority Indonesia against hosting Israel forced FIFA into a very late switch of venues. Indonesia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.