WELLINGTON: Goakeeper Zack Steffen saved an 81st-minute penalty to become the hero of the United States' 1-0 win over Colombia, which propelled it into the Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The only came after nearly an hour, when Rubio Rubin rifled in a shot from close range.
It came largely against the run of play, as Colombia played creatively with a surplus of possession throughout the first half and at the start of the second.
The US carried its slender lead towards fulltime until the 81st, when Kelly Perryn-Acosta tangled with Rodin Quinones in the penalty area, conceding a penalty and collecting a second yellow card which left his team with 10 men.
Responsibility for taking the penalty fell to Jarlan Barrera, who took his time before aiming his spot kick at the bottom left-hand corner. There was little power in the shot, and Steffen, who guessed its target correctly, threw himself to his right and parried the ball away.
The out-manned US still had to absorb a huge amount of pressure in the last minutes. The Americans were able to cling to their advantage and, at the final whistle, earn a place opposite Serbia in Sunday's quarterfinals — their first trip to the last eight since 2007.
Though the first half was scoreless, it was full of action. Colombia played fast-paced and elaborate, formulating complex attacking movements which the U.S. was often hard-pressed to break down.
The US suffered a substantial early setback in the 12th when forward Bradford Jamieson was carried from the field after a serious injury. That stretched the resources of the U.S., which lost Maki Tall to a broken foot in its opening game.
Colombia had its two best chances, through Barrera and Santos Borre, immediately before halftime. They resumed in similar mood and Borre was denied by Steffen early in the second half, as was Steven Lucumi, who was put into space by Alexis Zapata.
It was against that tide that Rubin scored his third goal of the tournament, taking full advantage when the ball deflected to him 10 meters from goal.
Colombia's equaliser seemed inevitable when the penalty was awarded. Steffen's save lifted U.S. spirits, and they played with manifest determination to the end.