Northern Ireland are going from strength to strength at the Milk Cup and have set up a final night ‘winner takes all’ encounter after beating USA last night.
Stephen Robinson’s boys came from a goal down at Drumahoe in the 3-1 victory and showed character to equalise on the stroke of half time through Paul McElroy, before former Manchester United man Luke McCullough gave them the lead and McElroy put the game beyond doubt in the second period.
They will now meet reigning champions Mexico tomorrow night - who beat Denmark to move on to four points in the group.
It means that a draw or better for the ‘home’ side at the Ballymena Showgrounds tomorrow will see them lift the trophy.
USA look assured on the ball in the first half and Jordan Allen found space out wide on 25 minutes, playing the ball into Alex Muyl, who showed close control before curling a delightful effort past Thompson.
Andrija Novakovich spurned a goal-scoring chance after 35 minutes after an under-hit back-pass from Patrick McNally allowed Novakovic to intercept and round the keeper before seeing Luke McCullough produce a timely clearance.
Robinson’s boys came into the contest more and more as the half wore on before eventually finding the equalising goal.
Jordan Allen threatened when his free-kick from 20 yards was just over the bar with five minutes of the first period remaining. Then on the stroke of half-time the equaliser came virtually out of nothing.
Derby County midfielder Sharpe was again involved and after some neat approach play laid the ball on to McElroy who finished neatly from close range.
In the second half the home side began to take control and just eight minutes into the new half were in the lead.
Luke McCullough, playing in his fourth Milk Cup with his third different team, was the man to grab the goal.
Substitute Camps whipped in a free-kick and found McCullough at the back post who dived in well and placed a header in the right-hand corner.
America’s best chance of the half of salvaging something from the game came five minutes from the end when Allen burst out of midfield and sent a low drive at goal, but Thompson saved comfortably.
McElroy wrapped up the points with his second of the night after a moment of confusion from substitute Andrew Mitchell.
Northern Ireland: Thompson, Ball, McNally, Buchanan, McCullough, Nolan, McEneff (Morgan), Sharpe (McMurray, Reid (Camps), McElroy, Charles (Mitchell)
USA: Hovath, Moore, Allen, Miazaga, Lema (Hayes), Muyl, Gooch (Henkel), Lloski, Amick, Requejo, Novakovich
Tyrone’s hopes of a dream final are still on course thanks to a Manchester United striker - from Downpatrick.
Ruairi Croskery netted in United’s win last night and Red Devils will now take on Dublin boys Cherry Orchard.
Tyrone, should they overcome the might of CSKA Moscow in the other semi-final, can meet the Old Trafford giants in tomorrow’s final.
United were 4-1 winners over German side TuS Altenberge in Limavady.
The Red Devils led by Croskery’s goal at the break and went on to add to it in the second period as Oliver McBurney netted his second goal of the tournament and hot-shot Andreas Pereira added a brace.
Steffen Hunker netted for Alternberge who put up brave resistance.
Orchard wrapped up their group campaign in style as they passed the French test in Portstewart.
They earned a 4-0 win over Vendee thanks to Jake Corrigan, Conor Mooney, Conor Dunne and Jamie Mulhall.
The Dubliners have clearly got better as the week has gone on after starting off with a 1-0 defeat to Cruz Azul on Monday.
However, they followed that up with resounding win over Down and yesterday’s equally impressive showing in Portstewart.
Tyrone made it courtesy of a hard fought 1-1 draw with fellow county side Fermanagh in Portstewart.
Marc McConnell gave the semi-finalists a second half lead and while Connor McAuley levelled, and ensured a nervous finale, they held on to make safe passage into today’s big game.
CSKA go into the last four with plenty of confidence and three wins in three days under their belts.
The Russian giants met the stubborn resistance of Brazilian boys Corinthians in Ballymena and Alexander Golovin’s 28th minute striker was all there was to separate the sides.
Liverpool had to make do with a place in tonight’s Globe encounter despite a 4-2 win over Newcastle.
One of the games of the week so far took place in Ballymoney where Antrim and Strikers shared a point in an eight-goal thriller. Antrim lead 4-1 at the break with goals from Podraig McPartland, Curtis Dempster (2) and Sam Knox, and Brandon Gillingham replying for the Americans.
However, Strikers produced a stirring a second half comeback a brace from Dalton D’Pando’s and a goal from Felipe Liborio.
It is the battle of the free-scoring English sides in tonight’s Junior Section semi-finals.
Everton will take on Watford in a mouthwatering last four clash and between the two sides have amassed 26 goals between them in their first three days of action.
The standout result of yesterday without a doubt came at Rugby Avenue where semi-finalists Watford recorded a TEN goal victory, without reply over San Luis de Colina.
David Sesay lead the charge with a hat-trick while Ogo Obi and Lewis Merridan chipped in with a brace each. Michael Folivi, Josh Roe and Dion Pereira were also on the scoresheet.
Spare a thought for Chilean outfit Colina, yesterday’s landslide defeat meant they have now conceded a whopping 18 goals in the first three days of the tournament.
Everton completed their group stages with maximum points courtesy of a 6-1 win over Armagh in Ballymoney.
Scott Megaw netted for Armagh, but they had little response to Nathan Broadhead’s treble while Cullum Brummell chipped in with two goals and Nathan Holland rounded off the scoring action.
In the second semi-final County Antrim will take on Liverpool for a place in the final.
Stefan Seaton’s boys have produced the best showing from a county since Down made the last four in 2008.
They are the sole representation of the local lads left in the main draw after seeing off the challenge of Ipswich Town with a 4-0 victory in Clough.
Liverpool snuck into the last four just ahead of Strikers FC with their 4-2 win over Southampton at the Coleraine Showgrounds yesterday afternoon.
Things looked ominous for the Anfield side when Carel Kayembe gave the Saints a half-time lead in a game Liverpool had to win. However they hit back in the second half, with Liam Robinson netting a hat-trick.
Tyrone and Down will compete in the Globe semi-finals. Yesterday Tyrone were comfortable 4-1 winners over Cavan & Monaghan at Anderson Park in Coleraine.
Meanwhile Down edged out North Dublin Schools 1-0 at the same venue with Jack McLaughlin on the scoresheet in the second half.
All of Wednesday’s results and remaining fixtures
Co Fermanagh 1 Strikers FC 1, North Dublin SL 0 Co Down 1, Dundalk SL 2 Swindon Town 2, Co Antrim 4 Ipswich Town 0, Watford 10 San Luis de Colina 0, Plymouth Argyle 2 Japan FA 0, Brentford 0 Co Londonderry 0, Everton 6 Co Armagh 1, Cavan & Monaghan 1 Co Tyrone 4, Liverpool 4 , Southampton 2
Club America de Mexico 2 Otago Utd 1, Vendee 0 Cherry Orchard 4, Co Down 1 Cruz Azul 0, Co Antrim 4 Strikers FC 4, O’Higgins 0 Co Armagh 1, CSKA Moscow 1 SC Corinthians 0, Tus Altenberge 1 Manchester United 4, Co Tyrone 1 Co Fermanagh 1, Liverpool 4 Newcastle Utd 2 Bohemian 0 Co Londonderry 0
Northern Ireland 3 USA 1, Mexico 2 Denmark 0
Plate semi-finals: San Luis de Colina v Ipswich Town (1.30pm, Castlerock), Dundalk SL v Co Fermanagh (Riada 2, Ballymoney)
Bowl semi-finals (Noon): Co Londonderry v Southampton (The Warren, Portstewart), Co Armagh v Cavan & Monaghan (Anderson Park, Coleraine)
Vase semi-finals: Japan FA v North Dublin Schools (Noon, Broughshane), Swindon Town v Brentford (3.30pm, Anderson Park Coleraine)
Globe semi-finals (Noon): Strikers South Coast v Co Down (Clough), Plymouth Argyle v Co Tyrone)
Milk Cup semi-finals (7pm): Everton v Watford (Scroggy Road), Co Antrim v Liverpool (Seahaven, Portstewart)
Plate semi-finals: Co Fermanagh v O’Higgins (Castlerock, 5pm), Bohemians v TuS Altenberge (The Warren, Portstewart, 3.30pm)
Bowl semi-finals (3.30pm): Co Down v Otago (Broughshane), Vendee v Co Londonderry (Riada 2, Ballymoney)
Vase semi-finals (5pm): Co Armagh v Co Antrim (Rugby Ave, Coleraine) v (Parker Ave, Portrush)
Globe semi-finals: Liverpool v Corinthians (Scroggy Road, 3.30pm), Newcastle v Club America de Mexico (Broughshane, 7pm)
Milk Cup semi-finals (8pm): CSKA Moscow v Co Tyrone (Riada Stadium), Man United v Cherry Orchard (Coleraine Showgrounds)
ELITE SECTION (Friday)
Northern Ireland v Mexico (Ballymena Showgrounds, 6pm), Denmark v USA (Scroggy Road, Limavady, 1.30pm).