In a thrilling encounter at the U-20 World Cup in Argentina, New Zealand’s Junior All Whites suffered a late setback as they were held to a 2-2 draw against Uzbekistan in their second group stage match. Despite a fantastic first half display, the Kiwis were unable to maintain their lead until the final whistle.
The match began positively for New Zealand, with Wellington Phoenix’s Ben Wallace showcasing his skills by netting a stunning long-range goal in the 23rd minute. His powerful strike left the Uzbekistan goalkeeper with no chance, putting the Junior All Whites in the lead. The team’s spirits were further lifted when Jay Herdman cracked in another impressive goal from outside the 28-yard-box, doubling their advantage just before halftime.
However, the U-20 champions of Asia, Uzbekistan, came back stronger in the second half. They managed to reduce the deficit early on in the 51st minute when Abbosbek Fayzullaev found the back of the net. As the match progressed, Uzbekistan grew in confidence and posed a greater threat to the New Zealand defense.
Despite their best efforts to hold on to their lead, New Zealand’s hopes were dashed in stoppage time. Substitute Sherzod Esanov came off the bench and scored a crucial equalizer for Uzbekistan, denying the Junior All Whites a second consecutive victory in the tournament.
Although the late goal was a blow to New Zealand, they still find themselves in a relatively comfortable position in Group A. With four points from two matches, they remain in contention for a spot in the knockout stage. A win in their final pool match against the host nation Argentina on Friday, May 26th, would be a major upset and seal their fate and secure their place in the Round of 16 – although even with a defeat it is possible the Kiwis advance.
The Junior All Whites will be eager to bounce back from the disappointment of the draw and put in a strong performance against Argentina. With their fate in their own hands, they will be aiming to make the most of the opportunity and advance to the next stage of the U-20 World Cup.