For only the sixth time in 42 years of the Under-20 World Cup, the USA won
a knockout game -- and it did so in dramatic fashion, regrouping late in the game.
Tab Ramos' U-20s came back from a 2-1 deficit in the last quarter of an hour to beat favored France, 3-2, and advance to Saturday's quarterfinals against Ecuador on goals by Sebastian Soto, his second of the game, and Justin Rennicks.
USA-France: U.S. Player Ratings
Ramos and his French counterpart, 1998 World Cup champion Bernard Diomede, both agreed the game turned after the second-half cooling break to allow players to hydrate on an evening when temperatures in Bydgoszcz, Poland, got into the mid-80s with high humidity.
France's Bleuets had gone ahead in the 55th minute and seemed to be control when they headed into the water break. But the USA equalized within 45 seconds of play resuming in the 74th minute.
The French restart was played deep into the corner of the U.S. half, where Sergino Dest picked up the ball and started a six-pass sequence that ended with Tim Weah splitting the French defense with a pass to Soto for the equalizer.
World Cup: U.S. knockout round victories:
1989: USA 2 Iraq 1. (Henderson 17, Brose 56; Kareem 35.)
2003: USA 2 Senegal 0. (Mapp 7, Johnson pen. 43.)
2007: USA 2 Uruguay 1. (Own goal 87, Bradley 107; Suarez 73.)
2015: USA 1 Colombia 0. (Rubio 58.)
2017: USA 6 New Zealand 0. (Sargent 32, Ebobisse 64, Lennon 65, Glad 76, Trusty 84, Kunga 90+3.)
2019: USA 3 France 2 (Soto 25, 74, Rennicks 83; Gouiri 41, Alioui 55.)
What was frustrating for Diomede was that he warned his players to be on their toes when player resumed -- and they should have been, having conceded a goal to Italy in the 2018 UEFA U-19 semifinals right after the cooling break.
Diomede told L'Equipe the difference in the two games was that the goal last summer made it 2-0 for Italy while the goal Soto scored made it 2-2 -- and the French should have been able to get a third goal.
The USA's winning goal came after French keeper Alban Lafont couldn't hold on to Dest's fierce shot and Rennicks pounced on the rebound. Diomede said afterwards that Lafont, who has already played 132 first division games with Toulouse and Fiorentina, more than the entire U.S. team combined, was playing with an injured wrist.
"I take full responsibility," Diomede said afterwards. "We went over the situation with the medical staff and the player. He wanted to play, and we thought he could do it."
In an interview on SiriusXM FC's Counterattack, Ramos said he was worried that the USA was starting to lose a grip on the game after France scored its second goal and the USA was unable to stop Paris St. Germain's Moussa Diaby attacking down the France's right wing.
That changed after the cooling break.
"I certainly don't want to take the credit for anything tactically that destroyed France," Ramos said, "but I did tell the team to try to exploit the right side of France in the back. I felt the best way to stop them was by attacking down that side. Once we did that, it took Diaby a little bit out of the game, so we could get going the other way."
Ramos was confident the USA still had a chance if it could start pushing into the French half and get Weah more involved in the game. He said his left center back, Aboubacar Keita, was able to start playing the ball out of the back to Chris Gloster and Uly Llanez on the left side, creating 2-v-1 situations.
That's just what happened on the sequence that led up to the tying goal.