In a one-sided encounter at the U-20 World Cup, New Zealand suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of powerhouse Argentina in their final pool game. The Argentinians, who were hosting the tournament, proved to be too strong for the Junior All Whites, who decided to rest some of their key players, including Jay Herdman, who was only introduced in the second half.
Argentina, buoyed by their previous two victories, showed no mercy to the less technical New Zealand side and quickly established their dominance. They took a commanding 3-0 lead by halftime, leaving the Kiwis with a mountain to climb.
The scoring started on the 14th minute when Ignacio Maestro Puch found the back of the net with a powerful header, capitalizing on a well-executed corner play. Just three minutes later, New Zealand gifted Argentina a goal as they lost possession in their defensive end, allowing Gino Infantino to score with a well-placed shot past goalkeeper Kees Sims.
On the 35th minute mark, Luka Romero, a highly talented young player from Lazio, produced a goal-of-the-tournament contender. He showcased his skill by recovering the ball in the center circle, dribbling past three New Zealand players, and finishing from long-range into the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
In the second half, Argentina continued their dominance and quickly extended their lead. A handball in the penalty box by Aaryan Raj led to a penalty kick, which Brian Aguirre confidently converted. With a 4-0 advantage, Argentina remained relentless and added a fifth goal in the 86th minute through a well-placed header by strong striker Alejo Veliz.
The defeat was a humbling experience for New Zealand, who failed to muster a single shot on Argentina’s goal throughout the entire match. Despite the heavy loss, the Junior All Whites still had a reasonable chance to qualify as the best third-placed side, as they ended their campaign in the group stage with four points. They would have to wait for the completion of the remaining group matches to determine their fate.
In the U-20 World Cup, the best four third-placed teams from the six groups would proceed to the Round of 16. Although the defeat against Argentina was a setback, New Zealand hoped that their overall performance in the tournament would be enough to secure their progression to the next stage.