Even before a ball has been kicked in the final round of matches in Groups A and B at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2012, both hosts Azerbaijan and Gambia already know they have reached the end of the road.
Which teams will make it to the quarter-finals, however, is still wide open. Six sides are in the running, but come the final whistle only four will be able to progress. It promises to be an evening of exciting all-or-nothing encounters.
Match of the day
USA-Korea DPR, Baku, 29 September 2012, 17:00 (local time)
Two old foes meet in Group B when USA and Korea DPR go head to head for a place in the knockout rounds on Saturday. The former still have a score to settle after losing the final of the inaugural tournament in New Zealand 2008, where the Asians triumphed 2-1. The Stars and Stripes took a second minute lead after an own goal from Hong Myong-Hui, before Kim Un-Hyang levelled the scores after the break. Jang Hyon-Sun netted the winner in the 113th minute to ensure it was Korea DPR who were crowned as the first ever FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup winners.
In Group B’s other fixture, France know that victory over Gambia would open the door to them reaching the quarter-finals. Les Bleuettes have drawn twice so far - one of which was goalless - and have only scored a single goal until now. By contrast, Gambia’s two defeats, in which they conceded 17 times, mean the tournament newcomers have already started packing their bags for home.
In Group A, the situation is every bit as exciting. Nigeria and Canada are level on four points, with Colombia hot on their heels with three. Azerbaijan are yet to pick up a point and sit at the foot of the table, unable to reach the next round. On paper at least, Canada appear to have the easier route to the last eight as they play the hosts. Nigeria and Colombia will fight for their tournament survival in the group’s other game.
Player to watch
Chinwendu Ihezuo was on fire against Azerbaijan, netting five times and setting up three, as Nigeria recorded the highest ever win by an African team at a FIFA tournament. With six goals so far, Nigeria's No19 is leading the race to win the adidas Golden Boot.
12 - Nigeria and Korea DPR have both been in a rich vein of scoring form, with each side finding the net twelve times. The latter smashed eleven past Gambia in their first Group B game and added another against France. Nigeria also notched eleven in their second Group A tie, with hosts Azerbaijan the victims.
“It’s never easy when you have to play the host nation because you know they’re going to have lots of fans cheering them on. Even so, I think we just need to believe in ourselves and in our abilities. We need to keep possession and score,” Canada striker Summer Clarke.
Gambia-France (Baku, Dalga Arena, 17:00)
USA-Korea DPR (Baku, Bayil Stadium, 17:00)
Canada-Azerbaijan (Baku, Dalga Arena, 20:00)
Colombia-Nigeria (Baku, Bayil Stadium, 20:00)
(All times given are local)