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NZ nab under-20 playoffs despite loss

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/05/2017

New Zealand have made the knockout phase at the under-20 World Cup in South Korea despite a 2-0 loss to France on Sunday (NZT).

The Junior All Whites were largely outplayed by the European champions, who have cruised through pool play without conceding a goal and having accumulated nine.

The top two teams from each pool progress through to the round of 16, along with the four best third place-getters.

With a scoreless draw against Vietnam and a 3-1 win over Honduras, New Zealand finished second in Group E after Honduras beat Vietnam 2-0 in the final pool match in Jeonju.

The Kiwis started briskly in Daejon against a largely second-string French side which featured only four players from their 4-0 win over Vietnam three days ago.

Wing back James McGarry sent in a tantalising cross for striker Myer Bevan, whose strong header forced a sharp save from goalkeeper Paul Benardoni after just five minutes.

France didn't take long to work their way back, Ludovic Blas proving particularly problematic down the right.

New Zealand's scrambling defence, and some good work from keeper Michael Woud, repelled a couple of promising chances before France took the lead in the 22nd minute with a brilliant individual finish from Allan Saint-Maximin.

The 20-year-old Frenchman struck again 15 minutes later, this time down the left as he turned Jack-Henry Sinclair inside out before curling in a lethal long-range finish.

Ahead 2-0 at halftime, France again weathered a bright Kiwi patch midway through the second spell, sharp passing in the box setting up Sarpreet Singh in space only for the 18-year-old attacking midfielder to blast his finish high.

But while France couldn't add to their tally, they controlled the remainder of the second half clinically to secure the win.

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