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Spain, France win Under-20 WCup opening matches

June 21, 2013

ISTANBUL (AP) — Spain showed why it is favored to win the Under-20 World Cup by beating the United States 4-1 on Friday in its opener after doubles from star strikers Jese and Gerard Deulofeu.

France also turned in a strong performance in the other Group A match, scoring two second-half goals within four minutes to win 3-1 against Ghana.

Spain opened the scoring when Deulofeu fires a shot across the goal mouth and Jese volleyed the ball into the net in the fifth minute.

Deulofeu, who plays for Barcelona, received the ball outside the area, sidestepped a defender and sent a blistering shot just beyond goalkeeper Cody Cropper to make it 2-0 in the 42nd. The European champions caught the defense sleeping two minutes later.

Javier Manquillo made a great run, passed to Jese, who was lurking in the area, and the Real Madrid striker scored his second goal just before halftime.

“We are happy for our team,” Spain coach Julen Lopetegiu said. “In the first half, we had problems with the American pressure. But we tried to run behind the defenders and we had the chance to score goals.”

Spain seemed to content to sit back for much of the second half, but again its counterattack paid dividends. Deulofeu received a long ball, got around Cropper and scored his second.

The Americans pulled one back when Luis Gil, who plays for Real Salt Lake, scored from just outside the area in the 77th.

U.S. coach Tab Ramos defended his decision to press Spain, insisting he didn’t want to “defend on our side of the field and lose.”

“It’s difficult to press Spain for 90 minutes. I thought we did a pretty good job of that,” he said. “What happens when you press, the press gets broken and you are vulnerable in the back. When you have players like Jese and Deulofeu — such great players, the timing of their runs is excellent. Sometimes great players will win the game regardless of what you do.”

France, which lost to Spain in the semifinals of the Under-19 European Championship, showed it has the attack to go far in the tournament.

After Ghana missed several early chances, France dominated the Group A encounter for much of the second period. The French hit the post in the 51st minute before Sevilla midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia put the team ahead with a header in the 65th. Three minutes later, Kondogbia chipped a nifty pass into the area for Auxerre striker Yaya Sanogo to shoot between the legs of goalkeeper Eric Antwi.

France forward Jean Christophe Bahebeck scored a third in 79th, before Ghana substitute Yiadom Boakye pulled one back in the 85th.

“Today, we were lacking a lot of things. We had a very average game but in the end we won 3-1,” France coach Pierre Mankowski said. “So I told the boys it was important to win because it was the first game. Clearly we can enhance our game, and in fact we have to be stronger for the next games.”

Mankowski was full of praise for Kondogbia and Sanogo for wreaking havoc on Ghana’s defense, using their size and quickness to outflank the smaller defenders and to get to loose balls in the area. Sanogo has shown the most improvement since he spent a year playing for Sevilla, Mankowski said.

“Now he understands the right moment to try and score, the moments to make a difference,” Mankowski said. “When he is good on the pitch, the team is good.”

Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh, who managed his side to the 2009 title, blamed the loss on several defensive lapses and missed chances when his team dominated in the first 20 minutes.

“It’s not good that we lost but I believe there were a few things there we could take home,” he said. “We had a wonderful first half, but we were a little bit sloppy midway in the second. We also conceded that early goal. That created a lot of problems for us. We finished the game stronger and that is positive.”

Security has been stepped up at all seven sites following weeks of sometimes violent protests after riot police cracked down on environmental activists who opposed plans to remove trees and develop Gezi Park in Istanbul. But the protests this week have given way to peaceful resistance, and there were no signs of protesters Friday at the Ali Sami Yen Arena.

Instead, the problem was a lack of spectators. The France-Ghana match only attracted 2,800 fans, leaving much of the 50,000-seat stadium empty. That confirmed FIFA’s fears ahead of the tournament that tickets were selling too slowly, with only 300,000 of the 1.3 million tickets sold.

South Korea came from a goal down to beat tournament newcomer Cuba 2-1 in the Group B opener. Reyes opened the scoring for Cuba in the seventh minute, only for the Asian champions to score twice in the second half. Kwon Chang-hoon scored a penalty in the 51st, and Rey Seung-woo hit the winner in the 83rd.

In other Group B match, Portugal led 2-0 over Nigeria but Ajagun scored twice within 10 minutes to draw the African side level. Bruma added a second in the 69th to give the Portugese the win.

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