Day 2 of the Group Stage of the U-20 Women’s World Cup was actually Day 1 in Montreal. Games for Group D got underway with France facing off against Costa Rica and New Zealand going up against Paraguay. Both games were played in front of sparse crowds (made even worse by the cavernous atmosphere of the Big O), but there were pockets of boisterous fans for each of the four teams that tried to make up for the fact that the announced crowd was not even 5,000 people.
France vs. Costa Rica:
France came into the game the favorites. They had won the 2012 U-17 world championships and were crowned the U-19 Europeans champs in 2013, so members of this team had a reputation as winners.
Even upon first glance at France and Costa Rica you would have to think that France had the advantage. The girls on France were huge and really dwarfed the petite Costa Ricans. There was no way that the Central Americans were going to win any battles in the air or involving power.
It only took France 7 minutes to exert their dominance over their opponents. The very busy Costa Rican keeper, Noelia Bermudez, was forced to take down Faustine Robert in the penalty area as she was bearing down on her. Robert was still strong enough to get the ball over her and was only denied a goal by the post. Claire Lavogez was selected by French coach Gilles Eyquem to take the penalty shot. She made no mistake sending Bermudez the wrong way and roofing a bullet shot into the other side. 1-0 France.
A second was added 11 minutes later and was totally created by Kadidatou Diani, who dribbled around three Costa Rican defenders and then laid the ball across to Robert. Robert just had to redirect it from 6 yards out with her side-foot into the net. 2-0 France.
They did not take the foot off the gas even with a two goal lead after a mere 18 minutes. France kept pressing. After earning a corner, Lavogez took it and some bad luck ensued for the team in red. Defender Fabiola Villalobos attempted to clear the ball only it went the opposite way into her own net. 22 minutes in and the rout was on. 3-0 France.
Just before the break France once again scored a goal which will be rewatched over and over on YouTube and could be the goal of the tournament. Everything about the goal was class from the build up to the finish. In the 38th minute Lavogez started the goal playing it to Sandie Toletti in the middle of the Costa Rican end. Toletti backheeled it to Ouleymata Sarr just outside the penalty area. With her back to the net Sarr then first time flicked the ball over to Lavogez, who had continued her run. Just inside the penalty area Lavogez lobbed the ball up and over the keeper and it went down into the net just over the line off the underside of the crossbar. 4-0 France.
The half time break could not have come quick enough for the Costa Ricans. They probably were fearing the embarrassing double digit score. Thankfully for them and all the Costa Rican fans in attendance the French only managed one more goal in the 2nd half. It came in the 53rd minute and once again was courtesy of a beautiful set up. Toletti was able to get to a ball near the end line before the Costa Rican defender. Bermudez had come out of the net to challenge her despite the sharp angle and so that gave Toletti the opportunity to play it over to Sarr in along in front of the net. Bermudez was able to get back in her net quickly enough to get a hand to Sarr’s first shot, but could do nothing when the rebound came right back to her. 5-0 France.
As is often the case when a team takes a large lead they lose focus and the weaker side suddenly looks the more threatening. For the last half hour or so of the game Costa Rica worked hard and had a couple of chances on the French net. Their most quick and skilled player Melissa Herrera was rewarded for the miles she had run in the 1st minute of added time she ruined the shutout of French keeper, Solene Durand.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Qin Liang (China)
Assistants – Fang Yan (China) and Liang Jianping (China)
-Goals: 1st Half:
7th minute: France – (pk) Claire Lavogez
18th minute: France – Faustine Robert
22nd minute: France – (og) Fabiola Villalobos
38th minute: France – Claire Lavogez
53rd minute: France – Ouleymata Sarr
90th + 1 minute: Costa Rica – Melissa Herrera
-Player of the Game: Claire Lavogez – France
-Final Score: France – 5
Costa Rica – 1
New Zealand vs. Paraguay:
It is an old adage in sports that early or late goals are backbreakers. The only two goals of this game were scored in the last 5 minutes of the first half. Mental or physical mistakes late in a half are always killers and were in this case as they allowed New Zealand to win the game though Paraguay created more chances.
Again it was a contest of David and Goliath in that the Kiwis towered over the Paraguayans. This did not seem to disconcert the South Americans as they continuously went up against their bigger opponents. They also with their deft ball handling worked their way into nice scoring positions only to betray themselves by trying one more deke. Still the team in red and white stripes created two scoring chances to every one that New Zealand did, but just couldn’t cash in.
This creating of chances and not capitalizing came back to bite them in the butt late in the 1st half. Emma Ralston made a nice individual effort to open the scoring in the 40th minute. After taking a pass from Steph Skilton on the right hand side of the pitch, she created some distance between herself and her marker. Then, with her left foot, from the edge of the penalty area she curled a shot just inside the far post. 1-0 New Zealand.
Play had barely started again when some great hustle by Kiwi captain Katie Bowen to keep a ball from going over the end line. She outworked the Paraguayan defender and then lifted her head to see that keeper Christina Recalde had come out towards the ball. Seizing the opportunity Bowen scooped the ball to the front of the net where Skilton was waiting anxiously alone. Skilton just put the ball into the empty net. 2-0 New Zealand.
The 2nd half was 45 minutes of New Zealand remaining disciplined and compact in their own end. Most times at least 10 players in white were behind the ball defending. The best chance Paraguay mustered was a shot from distance by Silvana Romero that landed on the roof of the net. A clinic by New Zealand in how to protect a lead.
New Zealand has never advanced beyond the group stage at the World Cup. This win against Paraguay might just do exactly that for them as they find themselves tied at the top of Group D with France. New Zealand and France are playing on Saturday while Paraguay and Costa Rica will do battle.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine)
Assistants – Sian Massey (England) and Natalie Aspinall (England)
-Goals: 1st Half:
40th minute: New Zealand – Emma Rolston
43rd minute: New Zealand – Steph Skilton
-Player of the Game: Steph Skilton – New Zealand
-Final Score: New Zealand – 2
Paraguay – 0