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Tunisia Tops United States 3-1 in 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup

CHANGWON, South Korea (Aug. 23, 2007) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team fell to Tunisia, 3-1, this evening in their second Group E match at the 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup at Changwon Main Stadium in Changwon, South Korea. The match included three penalty kicks, including two against the U.S. in the first half.

Tunisia opened the scoring after a questionable hand ball in the penalty area was called and Nour Hadhria converted the ensuing penalty kick in the eighth minute.  Hadhria also converted from the spot in first-half stoppage time to put Tunisia up by two heading into the locker room.

The U.S. finally pulled one back when Jared Jeffrey buried a penalty kick of his own in the 90th minute, but with the U.S. pressed forward looking for the equalizer, the African side put away a counter-attack goal in the waning minutes of stoppage time for the final score.

“It’s a hard result to swallow,” said U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth. “In the second half we did all we could, and played good, attacking soccer. We pushed as hard as we could, and you have to give Tunisia a lot of credit for defending with everything they had.”

The U.S. sits in last place in Group E with zero points, but still has a chance to advance to the second round if they defeat Belgium in their final Group E game on Sunday, Aug. 26 in Cheonan. Fans can follow the match live on ESPNU and Galavision at 2:45 a.m. ET (it will also be replayed at 12 p.m. ET).

Belgium scored a 92nd minute goal against Tajikistan for a 1-0 victory in tonight’s other Group E match, giving both teams three points after two games (Tajikistan has a better goal differential and is in second place). Tunisia clinched a spot in the second round with their victory against the U.S. as they sit in first place with six points and can finish no lower than second place. The top two teams in each group advance, along with four of the six third-place teams.

With a victory in their final match, the U.S. would be tied with Belgium on three points but would secure third-place in the group due to tie-breakers. At the least, a one-goal victory against Belgium would put the teams tied in goal differential (the first tie-breaker), but the U.S. would have a greater number of goals scored (the second tie-breaker). Whether they would advance as a third-place team depends on the results from the other five groups.

The U.S. could also finish second in the group and secure a spot in the knockout round if they defeat Belgium, depending on the result in the Tunisia-Tajikistan match. 

“We’re going to approach our game against Belgium the same way we approached the last two games,” said Hackworth. “I’m going to go scout Belgium right now and start putting together a game plan to get a result in the final group match.”

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The U.S. had one of its best opportunities in the second minute when an Alex Nimo corner kick was headed down by Mykell Bates to the feet of Billy Schuler at the far post, but Schuler’s shot was just off target.

Six minutes later, a U.S. turnover near the midfield stripe started a Tunisia attack down the right flank and eventually led the first penalty kick. The ball was played into the penalty area and Bates looked to have chested it away, but it may have also deflected off his arm and the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.

In the 22nd minute, Bryan Dominguez earned a free kick 20 yards in front of Atef Dikhili’s net, but his direct shot sailed high.

Tunisia went on the attack shortly after the free kick and Khaled Ayari ripped a shot right to goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Keeping the pressure on three minutes later, Mossaab Sassi, who was dangerous all night, fired a shot from just inside the penalty area that MacMath handled cleanly.

It was back and forth action for the remainder of the half, with teams exchanging chances at both ends. In the 28th minute, the U.S. mounted an attack into the penalty area, but Schuler was called offside. Two minutes later, Tunisia defender Slim Marzouki made a run into the attack, and was stopped only by a solid Tommy Meyer tackle. The U.S. had a chance late when Nimo cut the ball through a pair of defenders and hit a shot that went high over the crossbar.

Switching to a 3-5-2 formation at the start of the second half, the U.S. began to put the pressure on Tunisia’s defense. In the 56th minute, Nimo took a free kick from the left side of the box that led to a corner kick, but the corner kick was cleared away. Two minutes later, pressure by Ellis McLoughlin, who moved from wing to forward in the second half, led to another U.S. corner, but again the Tunisia defense put it out of danger.

Schuler almost put one away in the 67th minute when he collected a through pass from Jeffery, but Dikhili was quick to snatch the ball from the onrushing forward.

In the 75th minute, Jeffrey created a chance when he received the ball and carried it into the box, but a great defensive play from Bilel Ifa stopped Jeffrey’s penetration. The next minute, Chris Klute lofted a free kick into the box that was knocked around and eventually cleared away.

Late in the game the U.S. had a few great chances, but couldn’t convert. The first came when Abdusalam Ibrahim received the ball on the wing and beat a defender in the box, but his shot was saved by Dikhili. In the 85th minute, a Jeffrey cross found the head of substitute Danny Cruz, but his header is off target. Two minutes later, the Jeffrey swung in another free kick opportunity from the right wing and six U.S. attackers were in the box with no defenders after beating the offside trap, but Danny Wenzel’s header missed high.

Finally, the U.S. broke through when Nimo was kicked in the face after trying to collect a ball in the box and the referee called a penalty kick. Jeffrey buried the penalty to the lower right.

The U.S. pushed forward for the late equalizer, but Tunisia killed the game off when Saifeddine Ben Akremi got behind the U.S. backline and then swung in a low cross past MacMath to the wide-open Rafik Dkhil for the easy finish. 

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Game Report

Participants: U.S. Under-17 MNT vs. Tunisia
Competition: FIFA Under-17 World Cup
Location: Changwon, South Korea
Date: August 23, 2007
Attendance: 3,115

Scoring Summary:
            1    2    F
USA    0    1    1
TUN   2     1    3

TUN – Nour Hadhria (penalty kick) 8th minute
TUN – Nour Hadhria (penalty kick) 46+.
USA – Jared Jeffrey (penalty kick) 90.
TUN – Rafik Dkhil (Saifeddine Ben Akremi) 94+.

USA: 18-Zac MacMath; 2-Sheanon Williams, 3-Mykell Bates (capt.), 4-Tommy Meyer, 5-Chris Klute (11-Abdusalam Ibrahim, 46), 6-Danny Wenzel, 8-Jared Jeffrey, 10-Bryan Dominguez (14-Daniel Cruz, 77), 9-Ellis McLoughlin (21-Brendan King, 70), 19-Alex Nimo; 13-Billy Schuler
Subs Not Used: 1-Josh Lambo, 7-Kofi Sarkodie, 12-Kirk Urso, 15-Dane Shea, 16-Brandon Zimmerman, 17-Greg Garza, 20-Larry Jackson
Head Coach: John Hackworth

TUN: 16-Atef Dikhili; 2-Mohamed Karoui, 3-Bilel Ifa, 5-Meher Jaballah, 10-Nour Hadhra, 11-Mossaab Sassi (7-Rafik Dkhil, 52), 12-Sadok Arbi, 13-Khaled Ayari (19-Saifeddine Ben Akremi, 79), 14-Slim Marzouki, 15-Majdi Makhzoumi (capt.), 17-Youssef Msakni (6-Mohamed Wazani, 88)
Subs not used: 1-Habib Tounsi, 4-Hamza Tlili, 8-Ala Eddine Abbes, 9-Mohamed Ben Azouz, 18-Ahmed Mejri, 20-Oussama Boughanmi, 21-Mohamed Ali Souidi
Head Coach: Maher Kanzari

Statistical Summary:
Shots: 10 / 14
Shots on goal: 3 / 7
Saves: 4 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 20
Corner Kicks: 8 / 5
Offside: 4 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
TUN – Meher Jaballah (caution) 4th minute
TUN – Majdi Makhzoumi (caution) 46+.
USA – Mykell Bates (caution) 65.
TUN – Atef Dikhili (caution) 71.
USA – Billy Schuler (caution) 81.
TUN – Sadok Arbi (caution) 83.
USA – Jared Jeffrey (caution) 83.

Referee: Hernando Buitrago (COL)
1st Assistant: Abraham Gonzalez (COL)
2nd Assistant: Rafael Rivas (COL)
Fourth Official: Jong Chul Kwon (KOR)