- Quarter-finals get under way at Poland 2019
- Last eight debutants Ukraine duel Colombia
- Solid Italy face high-flying Mali
MATCHDAY PREVIEW – After a Round of 16 that featured four continental derbies, an air of mystery surrounds the quarter-finals at this FIFA U-20 World Cup. Acquaintances will be made as the remaining hopefuls go head to head in ties as fascinating as they are hard to predict.
For Ukraine, who made light work of Panama in the previous round, a stiff test awaits in the shape of Colombia. Oleksandr Petrakov’s charges take on their first South American opponents at these finals having impressed since the start of the tournament. And while the two sides employ very different styles they have both been tight at the back, conceding just three goals apiece. In Colombia’s case, none of those have come from headers, which ought to boost their confidence against a Ukraine team strong in the air.
A solid defence is even more of a hallmark of fellow last-eight contenders Italy, who share the best defensive record with Senegal. Gli Azzurrini have been breached just once so far thanks to the remarkable feats of goalkeeper Alessandro Plizzari. It’s a different story higher up the pitch, where they have managed only four goals in four games. In contrast, Mali have conceded more times than any other quarter-finalist – shipping nine goals while scoring the same amount.
Friday 7 June, all times local
Colombia-Ukraine (Lodz, 15:30)
Italy-Mali (Tychy, 18:30)
What you need to know
Having clinched their spot in the last of the Round of 16 games – and a contest that went all the way to penalties – Mali have two days fewer to recover than Italy, who booked their place in the opening knockout tie. “Of course Italy have an advantage,” said Mali coach Mamoutou Kane. “But we’ll study their games closely and adopt the best strategy to beat them.”
Ukraine are making their first quarter-finals appearance at the U-20 world finals after bowing out in the Round of 16 in each of their three previous appearances. The last time Colombia reached the quarter-finals was when they hosted the competition in 2011. Los Cafeteros would go no further than the final eight on home soil, succumbing 3-1 to Mexico.
Players to watch
Juan Camilo Hernandez (Colombia)
When “Cucho” Hernandez plays well, Colombia play well. After his hat-trick against Tahiti, the forward was far more subdued against New Zealand and his team endured a difficult game, eventually needing penalties to go through. Given Ukraine’s defensive rigour so far, Los Cafeteros will need their star striker to shine.
Abdoulaye Diaby (Mali)
One of Mali’s secret weapons, Abdoulaye Diaby proved fatal for Argentina. A rock at the back, Diaby gave Argentina’s forwards a torrid time and offered a threat of his own from set-pieces – most notably during Mali’s first equaliser. Italy will have to conquer this 6’4 (1.93m) mountain if they hope to prevail.