One half of the last sixteen fixtures have passed and four countries have progressed into the quarter-finals, Will Burns is here with a review of the action.
SPAIN 2-1 MEXICO
Spain completed an impressive turnaround against Mexico, with Real Madrid duo Derik and Jese Rodriguez both on target in the 15 minutes of the game to earn a 2-1 win and send them into the last eight.
It was a fantastic start for the Mexicans, coming from the left foot of Arturo Gonzalez just two minutes after kick-off. Raul Lopez whipped in a cross from right wing which found Gonzalez peeling away from his marker at the back post, and his volley into the roof of the net was emphatic as Spain were behind for the first time in the tournament.
Spain instantly went about dominating possession in search of an equaliser, but Mexico set up a near impenetrable wall of green shirts. However, the North Americans would hold firm until 15 minutes to go. Spain substitutes, Suso and Denis Suarez combined to bring them level, as the former’s corner was flicked-on by the latter, with central defender Derik on hand to head home. Before the final whistle could be blown, which would have taken the game into extra time, Jese had a winner. The Real striker creating space for himself well before firing a shot from the edge of the area, deflecting off Abel Fuentes to secure a quarter-final spot at the expense of a heart-broken Mexico.
GREECE 1-3 UZBEKISTAN
Greece were the latest victims of Uzbekistan in a match that featured two red cards and three penalties, in a dramatic 3-1 win for the Asians to find their way into the quarter-finals.
It took 27 minutes for the game burst into life, when Uzbekistan scored an excellent goal to go 1-0 up. Captain Vladimir Kozak made good ground on the left and delivered a fine diagonal cross which Abbosbek Makhstaliev met first time, smashing a right-foot volley in off the inside of the post from 14 yards.
The match was level on 33 minutes, when rash challenges from the Uzbek defenders on both Dimitrios Diamantakos and Ioannis Gianniotas resulted in a clear penalty, and captain Konstantinos Stafylidis assumed responsibility, slotting his penalty high to the keepers left.
The Greeks were looked like going on to winning but the game swung in Uzbekistan’s favour in the 62nd minute when Dimitrios Kourpelis was penalised for grappling at a free-kick and was sent off for a second bookable offence. Igor Sergeev slotted away the resultant kick, sending the keeper the wrong way with a firm and precise left-foot shot.
It was a tough ask for Greece to get back into the game down to ten men, and seven minutes from time they were again their own worst enemies. A clumsy challenge from Dimitrios Konstantinidis on substitute Zabikhillo Urinboev yielded the game’s third penalty. This time, Sergeev stood aside for Sardor Rakhmanov to have a go, and he waited for the keeper to commit before passing the ball into the top right-hand corner.
NIGERIA 1-2 URUGUAY
The Flying Eagles of Nigeria are out of this tournament after they were defeated 2-1 to the superior fire-power of Uruguay in a second round encounter.
A brace from AS Roma forward Nicolas Lopez were all the South American outfit needed to ease past their Nigerian opposition in the match played at the Ali Yen Arena, Istanbul.
Before a goal was scored, the Africans suffered a major blow shortly after as the game suddenly sparked into life, with Abdullahi Shehu receiving a straight red for a reckless challenge on Diego Laxalt.
With the man advantage, Uruguay dominated and the one-way pressure finally told. Giorgian De Arrascaeta swung a free-kick into the area and when Gaston Silva got to the ball ahead of Chukwunenye Okani, Lopez was on had to tap in.
However, Nigeria were back into the game minutes later when Olarenwaju Kayode scored a stunning equaliser. Carrying the ball from the halfway line, he drove at the Uruguayan defence that continued to back off before turning on to his right foot and thundering home from the edge of the area.
Uruguay took back control of the game after a mis-judgement by Okani after getting into a foot race for a loose ball with Diego Rolan. The Bordeaux man beat him to the ball and skipped past him, before being brought down by Onyinye Ndidi in the box. Lopez stepped up and, cool as anything, chipped what was a match-winning penalty beyond the keeper.
FRANCE 4-1 TURKEY
The host nation Turkey could do nothing to stop France cruising to a 4-1 victory in Gaziantep. First-half goals from Geoffrey Kondogbia and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck made coach Pierre Mankowski’s half-time team talk a lot easier. Then after the hosts were getting back into the fixture, it was Arsenal’s new signing Yaya Sanogo and Jordan Veretout who sealed the win before Turkey grabbed a consolation goal from Sinan Bakis.
France’s early pressure gave them the lead on 19 minutes when a Bahebeck corner was aimed towards Mouhammadou Sarr. When Sarr clashed with Turkish keeper Aykut Ozer, the no. 1 tumbled, and the ball fell to Kondogbia who was never going to miss from a yard out.
On 34 minutes, France made it two. Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba played a ball through to the left flank releasing full-back Lucas Digne down the wing. The Lille defender whipped in a perfect cross and Bahebeck made a brilliant run inside and met the ball perfectly, heading past Ozer.
Turkey came out for the second half and pushed the French back into their own half, but as they attacked, the space behind their defence began to grow and it was Pogba that exploited the space.
The Juve man looped a ball over the top to the onrushing Sanogo, the new Arsenal forward had a great first touch and placed it into the corner.
Pogba was involved again as France made it four, a lovely ball down the right finding Dimitri Foulquier, and the right-back played the ball along the deck for Veretout to sidefoot in his first goal of the tournament and France’s fourth of the game.
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