U20 Match Preview v. New Zealand

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2023 World Cup
The United States U20s play their round of 16 match against New Zealand tomorrow. New Zealand advanced to the knockouts after finishing third in Group A and earning enough points to be one of the top four, third place teams. The United States will come into this match as strong favorites to advance to the quarter-finals.

The details

The game is on Tuesday, May 30th at 1:30pm EST and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 2.

About New Zealand

New Zealand qualified for the U20 World Cup by winning the Oceanic Football Confederation, beating Fiji in the final.

New Zealand have not been overly impressive after finishing with four points in Group — beating Guatemala 1-0, tying Uzbekistan 2-2 and losing 0-5 to Argentina.

New Zealand have been tactically flexible, deploying a 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 in the group stage games. New Zealand deployed the 3-4-2-1 against Argentina in a game they knew they would be on the back foot, which will likely be the case against the United States. Argentina beat New Zealand handily, so I am not sure they will deploy that shape again.

The New Zealand squad is primarily constructed through their domestic league, with 15 of their 21 players from the first team or reserve team within New Zealand. There are two players from Vancouver Whitecaps second team, one of which is the son of Canadian Men's National Team Coach, Jay Herdman. He is there number ten. They also have two players from a Swedish third division team, an Italian third division team and NEC Nijmegen U21 team in Netherlands.

I expect New Zealand to sit in a low block and absorb pressure when the United States is in possession. When New Zealand obtains the ball I expect that will look to be direct and counter with long-balls and crosses into the box.

U.S. lineup and tactics

I don't expect a lot of new wrinkles in the round of 16 match against New Zealand. I believe the fate of the game will come down to how well the United States can penetrate New Zealand's low block, how well New Zealand handles the United States high press and counter press and how potent New Zealand can be in transition and with their crosses into the box.

The United States welcome back two top players in WING/LB Kevin Paredes from Wolfsburg and CM/DM Rokas Pukstas from Hajduk Split. While neither are expected to start, these additions will give Mikey Varas more ammunition and flexibility off the bench.

From a formation perspective, we could either see a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3. I like what I have seen from their three back formation and would like to see that deployed to start this match.

The big question for me is who Varas selects to play right wing-back and what three attackers he plays up front. I would not mind seeing Jonathan Gomez again on the right. It's not his natural position, but it gets the best players on the field and he adds more in the build up than Halliday.

Up top I would go with Cowell, Yapi and Luna across the front, but I think it is more likely Varas starts Cowell, Luna and Sullivan. I think Yapi has been more effective than Sullivan and I like the way this team looks with a more natural number nine like Yapi.

I think there is a good chance we see both Paredes and Pukstas in the second half, no matter what the game state, to help get them acclimated into the tournament. Both will be important players if the United States advance deeper into the tournament.


The United States will once again dominate possession and their press will cause problems for New Zealand. I don't think New Zealand have the players to cause a lot of problems for the United States in transition and their chances will be few and far between. The United States continue to cruise into the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win.

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