The FIFA U-20 World Cup has been blown wide open with two of the form teams of the tournament eliminated in dramatic fashion over the weekend.
Team USA were undone by Serbia in a match that went all the way to a penalty shootout. The United States looked like genuine title contenders throughout the pool stages and will be disappointed to go home empty-handed.
Tournament favourites Germany departing the competition was probably the most shocking result, with Mali pulling off the upset of the tournament. Coming back from 1-nil down the Africans eventually came out on top after a nail-biting penalty shootout.
Brazil snuck past Portugal on penalties and Senegal took care of Uzbekistan to round out the teams who advanced.
All eyes will be on Auckland and Christchurch as they host the semi-finals that will decide who will play off for the silverware.
Auckland: Serbia vs Mali
Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium will set the scene for the Mali vs Serbia semi-final clash. The tournament has been a dream come true for Mali who have been the giant killers of this World Cup.
Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city – has really embraced the tournament and will no doubt be a packed house for the match.
Rated as the third most liveable city in the world, Auckland is home to one third of New Zealanders including the world’s largest Polynesian population – a thriving multi-cultural mix infusing colour and diversity into the cuisine, music, art and culture. Perched on a narrow isthmus between two harbours, life in Auckland revolves around the sea and the sub-tropical climate promotes the ease and enjoyment of casual coastal living, outdoor adventure and activity.
The Auckland region’s diversity of people and place adds scope to the experience and within half-an-hour of the fashionable boutiques and cafés of downtown Auckland visitors can be sipping wine at an island vineyard, hiking through rainforest or walking along a black sand beach on the rugged west coast.
Christchurch: Brazil vs Senegal
Brazil survived an extremely close match with Portugal to make the FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-finals and now look to be firm tournament favourites.
Senegal will visit Christchurch for the first time this tournament which could work against them as Brazil has already tested out the Christchurch Stadium pitch.
Christchurch is a city of art, culture and inspirational storytellers that also serves as a gateway to fun-filled South Island adventures. It has an international airport and is within a couple of hours by road to several major regional destinations.
Dominated by New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook (3754m), and surrounded by the Southern Alps, a chain of mountains bigger than its European namesake - Canterbury is a place of vast spectacular landscapes offering diverse outdoor nature pursuits and thrilling adventures.
On the go visitors can ski down awe-inspiring slopes, play golf on world-class courses, take to the water (swimming, surfing, windsurfing, jet-boating or white-water rafting) or pedal along stunning cycle trails then relax with winning wines at beautiful vineyards, wander outstanding gardens or soak cares away in an alpine spa.