Ecuador eliminates USA in Under-20 World Cup quarter-finals

Sebastian Soto USA Ukraine Under-20 World Cup
The South American champions secured their place in the last four while the Americans fell in the quarterfinals for a third straight tournament

First-half goals from Jose Cifuentes and Jhon Espinoza were enough to hold off the United States in a 2-1 Ecuador victory in the Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals in Poland.

A pair of goals stemming from long-range strikes doomed the U.S. Under-20 national team to defeat, with Ecuador showing the quality that won them a South American Under-20 championship on its way to securing a place in the Under-20 World Cup semifinals.

Ecuador captain Espinoza scored the winner just before halftime after a left-footed Gonzalo Plata shot from distance rattled the crossbar and bounced to Leonardo Campana, who slipped the ball to Espinoza, who beat the U.S. defense to bundle the chance home. A VAR review confirmed that Espinoza was onside for the goal.

Tab Ramos' U.S. team failed to find an equalizer in a second half that consisted mostly of U.S. possession and organized Ecuador defending. Ecuador still managed the most dangerous chances of the period, hitting the crossbar with one chance and forcing a pair of difficult saves from U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa.

Ecuador opened the scoring in the 30th minute when Jose Cifuentes unleashed a 30-yard blast past Ochoa after his team broke on the counter-attack following a turnover by Chris Durkin.

The Americans needed just six minutes to respond though, with Tim Weah continuing his outstanding tournament with a 36th-minute goal. The Pairs Saint Germain forward volleyed home a corner kick after it bounced off an Ecuadorian defender for his second goal of the tournament.

Ecuador took just one minute longer to reply, with Espinoza's decisive strike coming seven minutes after Weah's goal.

Ecuador settled into a defensive shape in the second half, allowing the United States to control the bulk of the possession, but the Americans couldn't turn that possession into dangerous chances, even after Ramos inserted quick Wolfsburg winger Ulysses Llanez for Barcelona winger Konrad De La Fuente at halftime.

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Unlike its round of 16 upset of France, the Americans couldn't muster a second-half rally, even after inserting Justin Rennicks as a late substitute. Ecuador stayed organized defensively and kept the United States from truly testing Ecuadorian goalkeeper Moises Ramirez.

The victory moves Ecuador into the Under-20 World Cup semifinals, the furthest an Ecuadorian team has ever gone in a FIFA competition, where the South Americans will face the winner of South Korea's quarterfinal against Senegal.

The loss eliminates the Americans in the quarterfinal round for the third straight U-20 World Cup  tournament.