We were finally there – at the end of the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup. The last day of games after 9 days that saw 30 games. On day 10 we in Montreal had the privilege of watching the final 2 games live. Competing for 3rd place was France and North Korea and in the final was Germany and Nigeria. Both games showed what these young female soccer players are capable of and the crowd at the two matches got high quality soccer.
France vs. North Korea – 3rd place game
Crowds were not huge over the course of the tournament with an average of around 6,000 people taking in each game (only bumped up to that due to on Canada game which had 13,000 in attendance) and seemed even smaller as the 32,000 capacity of the cavernous Olympic Stadium really dwarfed anything less than capacity. While the announced attendance was almost 16,000 there was quite a bit less than that for the earlier 3rd place game that saw France face off against North Korea. The two teams couldn’t be more different in their approach to the game. France plays a more offensive style whereas the North Korean game relies more on discipline and structure. Despite these seemingly clashing styles fans were treated to 5 goals over the last 45 minutes.
As you probably guessed from that last sentence the teams went into half time tied 0-0. The North Korean style dominated the affair for the first 45. There were very few offensive chances especially on the North Korean side. France did manage to create a few and as usual it was courtesy of their midfielder with flair, Claire Lavogez. Just past 30 minutes of play she tried one of her patented looping shots from distance (she scored one of the goals of the tournament this way in France’s first game against Costa Rica) that went just over the crossbar.
Once the 2nd half started it became more like your typical 3rd place game in that both teams tried to score and defending went out the window at times. Despite the fact that France was the dominant team it was North Korea who opened the scoring in the 48th minute. Sol-Gyong Choe took a free kick that forward Un-Yong Ri was able to get to as French markers just fell asleep. Not a single person in a white shirt paid any attention to Ri and she got her head on the ball powerfully putting it beyond a helpless plus frozen Romane Bruneau. 1-0 North Korea.
That goal seemed to focus the French as they responded very soon with one of their own. Lavogez was the scorer in the 53rd minute as she connected on a muffed volley attempt by her teammate, Kadidiatou Diani. This was the goal, her 4th of the tournament, that helped cement the Bronze Ball Award (best players of the tournament) for the French midfielder. After scoring their first goal, France really had their confidence and continued pressing for another goal. They were rewarded in the 66th minute with a go ahead goal. It was a cracker of a goal from someone I didn’t expect it from. Holding midfielder Aminata Diallo plays just in front of the defense and does not often venture forward. I saw her more as a play starter rather than a finisher. After seeing this great goal I wondered if she shouldn’t have tried for a few more rather than dishing off the ball. Diallo got the ball on the right side and dribbled in a little. Seeing some space and maybe recognizing that North Korean keeper Chol-Ok Kim was a little too far off her line, Diallo launched a bullet of a shot that went over the backpeddling Kim and after hitting the underside of the crossbar crossed the goal line. 2-1 France.
After playing 45 scoreless minutes the floodgates were opened and they were not closing. It took only 2 minutes for North Korea to tie the game back up. Poor marking by the French again led to another goal. Un-Sim Ri got in on Bruneau and her shot forced the French keeper into a nice save. Unfortunately the dive for the save left her in a position in which she was not able to collect the rebound and first to the ball was Choe, who managed to poke it into the vacated net with a French defender on her back.
The French were not going to allow this to be a heartbreaker like their semi-final loss to Germany was and in the 79th minute another unlikely goalscorer became the hero. Lavogez took a corner from the right hand side and a scramble ensued in front of the North Korean net. French substitute Ouleymata Sarr, who was inserted in the game’s 60th minute, attempted a low percentage bicycle kick. The ball just glanced off her right boot, but fortuitously fell to defender Aissatou Tounkara, who from 8 yards out lobbed the ball over Kim for the medal winning goal. 3-2 France.
The bronze medal is an achievement that the French women should be proud of. They were one goal away from being in the finals and were the dominant team in their group. The future looks bright for women’s soccer in France with players like Lavogez, Mbock-Bathy and Tounkara showing they are ready to move on to the national squad. We are sure to see some of these players in the Women’s World Cup hosted here in Canada in 2015. As for the North Koreans they are a young squad and many will be back for the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup in a yet to be named country.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Sachiko Yamagishi (Japan)
Assistants – Allyson Flynn (Australia) and Sarah Ho (Australia)
-Goals: 2nd Half:
48th minute: North Korea – Un Yong Ri
53rd minute: France – Claire Lavogez
66th minute: France – Aminata Diallo
68th minute: North Korea – Un Hwa Choe
79th minute: France – Aissatou Tounkara
-Shots on Goal: France – 9
North Korea – 4
-Corners: France – 2
North Korea – 4
-Player of the Game: Griedge Mbock-Bathy – France
-Final Score: France – 3
North Korea – 2
Germany vs. Nigeria – Final
Sometimes in tournaments underdogs or unexpected teams make it to the finals, the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup featured the two strongest sides in the tournament and two of the most successful nations in U-20 women’s soccer of recent history. As the game would attest to these two sides had very little to separate them and as such provided fans with a game to remember.
African side Nigeria was thanking their lucky stars they were even allowed in the tournament as FIFA lifted a ban on the nation after what happened with the men’s side in this year’s World Cup in Brazil. Fans across Canada were the real lucky ones as we got to see the Falconets wonderful brand of offensive soccer. Unlike many a team they did not only try to score via counter attack or turnover, Nigeria forced the ball forward and played a style that created many goal scoring chances.
Germany was more your typical soccer squad in that they played cautiously and as a team. They were very discipline, kept their shape and only when they saw a mismatch did they go for goal. As such several teams felt like they outplayed the Germans only to end up on the losing side due to a couple of mistakes.
Throughout the game it seemed like Germany was being outplayed by the Nigerians. They just fell behind the ball and defended with all their might against a strong offensive side. Over the 90 minutes of regulation the Nigerians did create more offensive chances. Late in the game in the 85th minute the Nigerians thought they had scored the game’s winning goal only to have their hearts stomped on by the offside flag of the assistant referee.
Their impressive forward Asisat Oshoala showed tremendous pace and skill numerous times during the match. There was no questioning why she and her 7 goals in the tournament won the Golden Ball Award for the tournament’s top player. At the end of it all that was small consolation to her as her team came up short.
Nothing was settled over the 90 minutes of regulation. The game went into two halves of 15 minutes of overtime. As you would have expected if you were watching the game, Oshoala had the overtime’s first good chance, but once again failed. 8 minutes into the first 15 of extra time German forward Lena Petermann scored what I’m sure is the biggest goal of her life up until this point. Fellow striker Pauline Bremer, a player who stood out all tournament, once again showed her strength on the ball stealing it from Nigerian defender Gladys Abasi and once she had brought the ball to the end line she cleverly cut it back to an open Petermann, who just had to hit the net from 6 yards out. 1-0 Germany.
The goal seemed to have broken the Nigerian team’s spirit and Germany held on to the lead for the rest of the overtime. Meike Kämper, the once again excellent German goalkeeper, was not really tested. Germany was once again World Cup champions.
This was a hard-fought game with each side having to pay a price to gain a slight advantage. Tackles were frequent and hard. Girls on each side ran for miles. Eventually a single mistake proved costly. The Germans women U-20 have now won the World Cup a record tying three times.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Carol Anne Chenard (Canada)
Assistants – Suzanne Morisset (Canada) and Marie Charbonneau (Canada)
-Goals: 1st Overtime Half:
98th minute: Germany – Lena Petermann
-Shots on Goal: Germany – 13
Nigeria – 6
-Corners: Germany – 6
Nigeria – 6
-Player of the Game: Meike Kämper – Germany
-Final Score: Germany – 1
Nigeria – 0 (overtime)