- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Mamadou Thiam scored in the 76th minute to give first-time qualifiers Senegal a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan on Sunday, setting up a semifinal against five-time champion Brazil at the Under-20 World Cup.

Senegal had never won a match in the final qualifying stage for an under-20 tournament until this year. After achieving that feat, it posted its first-ever win in the tournament itself when it beat Asian champion Qatar 2-1 in group play.

After being denied for much of Sunday’s match by Uzbekistan goalkeeper Dilshod Khamraev, Thiam combined with Remi Nassalan for the winning goal.

Senegal plays Brazil on Wednesday in Christchurch.

“It was a very tough match as I was expecting,” Senegal coach Joseph Koto said. “I can tell you one thing (Sengal’s capital city) Dakar isn’t sleeping right now. At first everyone expected us to get smashed, 5-0, 6-0, 7-0 at every match we played but the team actually progressed through the rounds and now everyone watches the matches.”

Senegal had created more chances than Uzbekistan throughout the match and Nassalan was its most dangerous player, frequently finding weaknesses in the Uzbek defense.

But he seemed to have squandered a vital winning chance in the 62nd minute when, after a strong run down the left flank, Moussa Wague’s cross found Nassalan in front of goal and, with time and space, the tall midfielder fired wide of goal.

Nassalan more than made up for that miss with his part in Thiam’s winning goal. He controlled the ball well on the left edge of the box, drawing in defenders, then slipped a low ball to Thiam who had time in front of goal to pick his spot.

Uzbekistan started as favorite in its fourth U20 World Cup and as a previous quarterfinalist but seemed unable to settle into any attacking rhythm. Dostonbek Khamdamov, who had been its best player with three goals in his previous four matches at the tournament, was kept quiet by well-drilled Senegal defense.

Nassalan had one of the best scoring chances of the first half when he turned well, eluding the defense in the 32nd minute and fired his shot just wide of the right post.

Just before the half ended Alassane Sow stole the ball from an Uzbekistan defender, broke into space and fired a strong shot which deflected but was well saved by Khamraev.


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