And then there were four. France, Germany, Nigeria and North Korea were the four teams left in the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup. The game seeing France take on Germany was played right here in Montreal. Having seen all the games in Montreal and a couple on television as well these were the top two clubs in the tournament in my opinion (though seeing how Nigeria crushed North Korea 6-2 in the other semi in Moncton I might have to rethink that) so soccer fans here were going to be treated to a great contest.
France and Germany are two of the biggest superpowers in the soccer world with long traditions on both sides. Both the men’s and women’s programs in both countries are amongst the best in the world. The German men’s national team is just off of winning the World Cup in Brazil, so the German U-20 women are trying to match their accomplishment. Germany had been strong throughout the tournament going unbeaten and scoring a tournament co-leading 12 goals in the Group Stage. France had also scored 12 goals over the Group Stage, but had done Germany one better by going undefeated plus not even tying a game. The two teams had met last year in the UEFA European U-19 final with France emerging as the victor. Turnabout is fair play they say…
The game did not disappoint the almost 7,000 in attendance in regards to quality though I’m sure the Bluettes supporters went away with broken hearts. Throughout the 90 minutes a high calibre of soccer was played with plenty of scoring chances created and a high skill level by both sides. This was not boring defensive soccer, rather both teams were going for goals. Germany came into the contest with an extra day of rest and started off the game with the fresher legs.
Over the first 12 minutes of the game Germany was the dominant side. They had France back on their heels. German coach Maren Meinart’s side earned a lead in the 12th minute. Looking back it was a weak goal in that French keeper Solene Durand could have done better on and the French defense was guilty of being to flat allowing the Germans to play a ball over their offside trap. Teresa Panfil recognized that the French defense was in a vulnerable position and played a looping ball over them to spring Sara Dabritz on a bit of a break down the left side. Dabritz took a low shot that Durand got her hands on, but she punched away the shot right into the path of the predator Pauline Bremer. In front of an empty net from less than 6 yards out this young lady does not make mistakes. She easily side footed it in for 1-0 German lead.
Bremer has been one of the standouts for me at this tournament. She has scored 5 goals in Germanys 5 games. A tireless runner, ability to get open and a clinical finisher are just some of her attributes as a player. She has been a leader for her team on the field. For the French the most recognized player has been flashy midfielder Claire Lavogez. She has earned 3 player of the game mentions while scoring 3 goals and setting up a few others. In my opinion, though, the most important player for France has been their sensational central defender and captain, Griedge Mbock Bathy. She has been a rock for a side that has only conceding one goal over their first 4 games. Mbock Bathy has everything speed, strength, skills, and smarts. No one gets by her 1-on-1 and she has sent off on breaks several of her teammates with her incredibly precise long balls. That being said it was more than right when she scored the goal to tie the game up.
Once Germany opened the scoring the game changed completely. France seemed to wake up after conceding the first goal and realized it was do or die. From the 12th minute on they dominated play. They created goal scoring chance after goal scoring chance. The dominance was so complete that the Germans rarely got out of their own end for the rest of the 1st half. A weakness (if you could say that about a team that has not lost a game) for the French is their inability to cash in on scoring chances. They create they just cannot finish. This would come back to bite them in the butt, but in the 45th minute (the dreaded late goal) their captain scored off a dead ball chance.
After German keeper Meike Kämper made some great saves or the French had just bungled scoring opportunities they won a corner kick in the 45th minute. A last gasp chance at a goal. Lavogez took it from the right side and the onrushing Mbock Bathy somehow in a large clump of players inside the penalty area got on the end of it and her volley looped over a leap by Kämper.
Game went into the break tied at 1-1 and you had to think that since France had broken through they would continue scoring. What did continue in the 2nd half was scoring chances, but France could just not buy a goal. The German side, however, does not need many chances to score as they cashed in on both that they had.
The winning goal came from a German corner kick in the 81st minute that Rebecca Knaak seemed to head in only to have it cleared off the line by a French defender. Once given a second chance the Germans did not fail. The clearance fell to Lena Petermann, who poked it in from 2 yards out. 2-1 Germany.
France desperately tried for a tying goal over the last 9 minutes and the 3 minutes of added time, but to no avail. After the final whistle there was joy on one side of the pitch and misery on the other side. Many of the French players collapsed in grief on the field and let the tears flow. Several sat there crying for a good long while. French hearts were broken over what they must have seen was a case of letting a berth in the finals slip through their fingers.
A disappointed France will meet North Korea in the 3rd place game on Sunday afternoon at the Olympic Stadium while the final will see Germany play Nigeria that evening in the same building. Montreal is hosting the final, so let’s support these women and show up in great numbers.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Katalin Kulcsar (Hungary)
Assistants – Chrysoula Kourompylia (Greece) and Lucie Ratajova (Czech Republic)
-Goals: 1st Half:
12th minute: Germany – Pauline Bremer
45th minute: France – Griedge Mbock Bathy
81st minute: Germany – Lena Petermann
-Shots on Goal: Germany – 4
France – 10
-Corners: Germany – 4
France – 7
-Player of the Game: Meike Kämper – Germany
-Final Score: Germany – 2