U.S. U-20s draw France

The U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team conceded a goal on a controversial penalty kick and failed to convert a penalty kick of their own, but still managed grab a crucial 1-1 draw against heavily favored France in their second game of the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey on Monday.

France took the lead in the 47th minute through a Yaya Sanogo penalty, though replays appeared to show the foul occurred outside of the box and the spot kick shouldn’t have been given. Mario Rodriguez then found the back of the net for the U.S. in the 60th minute, but was rule offside. Four minutes later, Luis Gil wasted a chance to equalize when his weak penalty kick was saved. Daniel Cuevas finally found the equalizer for the U.S. in the 84th minute, finishing off a deflected free kick.

The draw puts the U.S. (0-1-1, 1 point) into third place in Group A. Spain (2-0-0, 6 points) sits in first, with France (1-0-1, 4 points) second and Ghana (0-2-0, 0 points) in last. The top two teams in the group automatically advance to the Round of 16, while four third place teams in the six groups also advance. The U.S. face Ghana on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, with a win likely enough to put the Americans into the next round.

France’s best early chance came in the 13th minute when Troyes forward Jean-Christophe Bahebeck curled a free kick from the left flank into the U.S. box. Juventus midfielder and France captain Paul Pogba volleyed a shot towards goal, but it was wide of the target.

Auxerre’s Yaya Sanogo then came close in the 17th minute after a poor giveaway from the U.S. defense. Sanogo powered a shot on frame, but U.S.  and Southampton ‘keeper Cody Cropper managed to tip the shot over the bar.

Those were France’s best two chances of the opening 45 minutes as Colorado Rapids defender Shane O’Neill’s introduction into the line-up after missing the 4-1 loss to Spain due to suspension seemed to greatly improve the American defense.

The U.S. had two chances of their own just before halftime. At the 45 minute mark, Los Angeles Galaxy forward Jose Villareal’s header just missed the target after being set-up by Monterrey’s Alonso Hernández. Then, in stoppage time, with the last kick of the half, Villareal slipped a pass through the defense to Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gill, but Gill was unable to get enough power on his shot to beat France and  Paris Saint-Germain ‘keeper Alphonse Aréola.

Just after the halftime break France threatened when Bahebeck got the ball off a long pass near midfield and ran in on goal. Under pressure from the U.S. defense, Bahebeck’s shot wasn’t good enough to beat cropper.

Soon after, however, France would take the lead on a penalty kick when UCLA defender Javan Torre fouled France and Rennes defender Dimitri Foulquier on a run into the box. Though replays appeared to show the foul occurred just outside the box, Ecuadorian referee Carlos Alfredo pointed to the spot. Sanogo took the kick, sending it to Cropper’s right. The U.S. ‘keeper got down to get his hands to the shot, but was unable to keep it out of the net.

Sanogo then nearly doubled France’s lead when he got behind the U.S. defense in the 59th minute, but Cropper made an impressive save to keep it out.

The U.S. thought they had found an equalizer in the 60th minute when Kaiserslautern’s Mario Rodriguez was played behind the defense. Rodriguez chipped a shot over Aréola and into the net, but was correctly ruled offside.

Four minutes later, it was Rodriguez at the center of it again, being tripped up and earning a penalty kick when making a run into the box. Gill stepped up to take the penalty and hit it low to Aréola’s left, but it was weakly hit and the French ‘keeper made the save, denying the U.S. a chance to equalize.

The U.S. finally found a deserved equalizer after Rodriguez was fouled just outside the box in the 84th minute. Gil hit a low free kick that deflected to Santos Laguna’s Daniel Cuevas who chipped it past Aréola  and inside the post to knot the score at 1-1.

From there on, the U.S. withstood some late pressure from France to hold on for an important point.

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue