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Portugal Enters U-20 World Cup Semis

PTI 14 Aug 2011, 9:11:01 IST

Cartagena, Colombia, Aug 14: Portugal defeated six-time champion Argentina in a penalty shootout Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the Under-20 World Cup.

After being locked 0-0 following extra time, Portugal won the shootout 5-4 when goalkeeper Mika stopped the last attempt from Nicolas Tagliafico.

Portugal, which has not allowed a goal in five matches at the tournament, will next face the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal between France and Nigeria. Portugal is going for its third U-20 title following triumphs in 1989 and 1991.

Argentina led the shootout 3-1 and needed only to convert one of its next two chances. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez drove his attempt into the crossbar and Alan Ruiz was then stopped by Mika with a diving save to his left.

As the Argentines missed, Portugal converted its next two to level it at 3-3.

Portugal's Tiago Ferreira made it 4-3 and Argentina leveled at 4-4 when Agustin Vuletich converted. Portugal's Sergio Oliveira then made it 5-4, setting the stage for Mika to bat away Tagliafico's attempt.

Argentina's ouster is another setback for the proud South Americans. Last month its senior team was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the Copa America at home in Argentina, which led to the firing of coach Sergio Batista.

Argentina's under-20 coach Walter Perazzo acknowledged during the tournament that the team needed to reach the semifinals for him to keep his job.

The penalty shootout was the most exciting part of an otherwise dull match, with Portugal's stout defense standing strong and Argentina unable to break it down.

There were few chances in regulation time with both teams stacking the midfield.

Portugal had a few more chances in the first half, its best in the 21st when Caetano broke in from the right and Argentina keeper Esteban Andrada tipped his close-range shot over the crossbar. Teammate Sergio Oliveira tested Andrada with a low shot minutes later.

Erik Lamela had Argentina's best chance, sailing a free kick just high in the 19th.

The second half was much of the same. Argentina's best chance was in the 48th when Facundo Ferreyra just missed tapping in Lamela's free kick. Portugal came close in the 68th when Argentina keeper Andrada batted away a dangerous free kick from Sergio Oliveira.

Neither team had a decent chance in the 30 minutes of extra time, worn down by the 32 Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) heat in Cartagena and the high humidity. AP