Gambia is 'gratified'

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

TORONTO -- It isn't as if Gambia coach Peter Johnson doesn't recognize his team's place in this U-20 World Cup.

Stuck in a tough Group C with tournament powerhouses Mexico and Portugal, last night's meeting with New Zealand was an opportunity too good to mess up.

"We are really gratified getting three points," Johnson said after a 1-0 win in a game featuring two nations making their first event appearance.

"We wanted to score more goals, but we had to play safe and make sure we got our three points."

After a 3-0 loss to Mexico last weekend and with Portugal waiting, Johnson and his spirited group knows getting a second win or even a draw is dreaming large.

Added goals last night would have helped in the more realistic pursuit -- a chase for one of four spots in the Round of 16 awarded to third-place finishers in group play.

Those spots rely on goal differential, making last night's result a small victory. The game's solo score came from forward Ousman Jallow, who finished off a header in the 22nd minute after hitting the post six minutes earlier.

The New Zealanders, who were shut out 2-0 by Portugal in their opener, were listless in the first half as Gambia attacked repeatedly.

That led to a halftime dressing down by coach Stu Jacobs and a stronger final half.

"We had some words at halftime," Jacobs said. "We told them there wouldn't be much success at a World Cup giving less than 100 per cent.

"This is our first World Cup and we'll take some lessons from it then try to do better next time we are here."

The first half was played before an empty BMO Field as most ticket holders for the doubleheader bought to see Portugal-Mexico and were in no rush to arrive.

"That's the way it is with New Zealand football," Jacobs said. "Not too many people from this side of the world want to see us play."


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