Action from the FIFA U-20 World Cup match between the USA (white jersey) and Ukraine on June 5, 2015, in Auckland. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Viktor Kovalenko scored three goals in the second half to lift Ukraine (2-1-0, 7 points) to a 3-0 win over the United States (2-0-1, 6 points) in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup on Friday at North Harbour Stadium.
The result gave Ukraine the Group A crown, while the U.S. finished in second. Both sides earned progression to the round of 16. Tournament-host New Zealand (1-1-1, 4 points) gave itself a chance to advance as one of the four best third-place teams by defeating Myanmar (0-0-3, 0 points), 5-1.
After a scoreless first half, Kovalenko emerged from the break in an attacking mood.
In the 56th minute, he curled a 30-yard free kick over the American wall and into the lower-left corner beyond the reach of goalkeeper Zack Steffen to give Ukraine a 1-0 lead.
The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder struck again in the 74th minute, cleverly redirecting Eduard Sobol’s feed from the left side of the box into the right side of the net.
Kovalenko completed his hat-trick with a cool 79th minute finish. Artem Biesiedin delivered a splendid pass into the left side of the penalty area, setting up the calm Kovalenko, who basically passed the ball into the net from 12-yards out.
The U.S. had a chance to get on the scoreboard just before the hour mark, but Emerson Hyndman saw his penalty kick be saved by goalkeeper Roman Pidkivka.
In the next round, the USA will meet either Portugal, Colombia or Senegal.