Brazil defender Danilio says his team is still improving, and that could be troubling for Mexico in the semifinals of the Under-20 World Cup.

The Brazilians won what may have been the best match of the tournament, defeating Spain on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals after a 2-2 draw through extra time. The game featured end-to-end attacking, dominant possession and two of the world's best young goalkeepers.

If Brazil gets better, Mexico faces a rough road Wednesday. France and Portugal meet in the other semifinal, with the winners advancing to Saturday's final in the Colombian capital of Bogota.

"We have won various matches in the World Cup, but we still have the feeling that we're missing something," Danilio said. "Against Spain, we won with our hearts."

Brazil will be the clear favorite against Mexico. The South Americans lead the remaining teams with 13 goals, they are after their fifth U20 title they lost the final two years ago against Ghana and goalkeeper Gabriel was key with two acrobatic saves in the penalty shootout against Spain.

"This team has matured tactically," Brazil coach Ney Franco said. "We knew how to react to neutralize the Spanish game and we can do it again against Mexico."

Henrique, Philippe Coutinho and Dudu lead Brazil with three goals each. Dudu has scored his three coming off the bench.

But Mexico shouldn't be written off yet. Its senior team won the regional Gold Cup championship in June, defeating the United States 4-2 in the final. A month later, El Tri's youth team defeated Uruguay 2-0 in the Under-17 World Cup final at home in Mexico City. One more title would cap an outstanding season. It would also be the first title for Mexico at the U20 level.

"We are thinking about reaching the final," Mexico midfielder Jorge Enriquez said. "We know Brazil has talented, technical players, but we think if we work together we can do some damage."

Mexico won only one match in group play, but has been building momentum with a 3-1 victory over host Colombia in the quarterfinals. Colombia had won its first four matches before the loss.

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Chavez delivered a clear message to his players after the Colombia victory.

"There was a lot of celebrating when I went into the dressing room after the match," Chavez said. "When I came in I turned off the music. Fortunately, we are in the semifinals, but we are not champions. That is when it will be time to celebrate."

The Portugal-France semifinal seems less clear. Somehow, Portugal just keeps getting by.

"One characteristic of this team is it never loses sight of its goals," coach Ilidio Vale said.

The Portuguese advanced from the quarterfinals by beating Argentina on penalties after a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes of regulation and extra time. It has scored only three goals in five matches, but led by goalkeeper Mika it has not allowed a goal in five games.

Portugal has won the U20 title in 1989 and 1991. A trophy this time would come 20 years after Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Joao Pinto led Portugal to the last one.

France showed its toughness in beating Nigeria 3-2 in the quarterfinals.

France led 1-0 before Nigeria's Maduabuchi Ejike tied it in the final seconds of stoppage time. France rebounded with two goals in a two-minute span in extra time by Gueida Fofana and Alexandre Lacazette and then held on despite a late Nigeria goal.

"The win against Nigeria does not put us a rung above Portugal," France coach Francis Smerecki said. "They know our game, and we know their strengths and weaknesses."

France is into the U20 semifinals for the first time and matches up with a traditional European rival.

"Wednesday's game is special, but the goal is the final," Smerecki said.

Follow us on
Like us at