Fiji U20 loses opener

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The Digicel Fiji U20 national team. Picture: FFA

Fiji began their FIFA U-20 World Cup with a defeat in San Juan, as they went down 0-4 to a strong Slovakia side in its opening Group B match yesterday.

The Slovakians dominated possession and territory from the outset as they sought to stamp their authority on proceedings. And in the fifteenth minute they got the breakthrough — Adam Gazi converting at the back post following a swift move down the left flank.

Fiji — competing in only their second FIFA U-20 World Cup – worked hard to establish a platform but whilst their endeavour and commitment were never in doubt, they struggled to stem the tide of Slovakia’s attacking threat.

The second goal came in the 25th minute, as Mate Szolgai’s low shot squirmed through the hands and legs of Fiji keeper, Aydin Mustahib.

The Fijians were able to slowly grow into the game as half-time approached, though were indebted to Mustahib for keeping the score at 2-0, the goalkeeper athletically tipping a Timotej Jambor header onto the crossbar.

It was a hot and humid evening in San Juan and perhaps understandably the pace and intensity of the football dipped in the second period, with Slovakia continuing to dictate the play but without the string of clear chances that they created in the opening minutes.

The third goal did eventually come in the 70th minute, Artur Gajdos’ cross from the left-hand side evading defenders and attackers alike and settling in the far corner to put the result beyond doubt.

The fourth duly followed in the 79th minute. Timotej Jambor — who had threatened on numerous occasions without success — finally got his goal with a towering header into the far corner.

A Mohammed Raheem free-kick from distance was the closest that the Fijians managed in the second half, though they will take confidence from an improved second half against a strong Slovakia side.

Up next for Fiji is a clash with the United States in San Juan — the Americans secured victory in their opening match over Ecuador earlier in the day.