Group A of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 belonged to Africa and CONCACAF as Nigeria and Canada grabbed the two qualifications slots for the quarter-finals. A plucky Colombia side fought all the way in their bid to reach the knockout phase for the first time but had to settle for third, while hosts Azerbaijan recovered from heavy defeats in their opening two games to show against Canada that they are on the right track.
Tied on seven points with Canada, but possessing a superior goal difference, the Nigerians combined pace and power throughout and showed their strengths in racking up an 11-0 win over the Azeris, the joint-highest of the group phase. Resolute in defence, the Canucks made the most of the attacking opportunities that came their way, and the gritty Colombians started strongly before coming up just short against the top two. As for Azerbaijan, their learning curve proved to be a steep one, and they make their exit as the only team in the short history of the competition not to have scored a goal.
Matchday 1 ended with Colombia atop the section after their 4-0 defeat of the host nation, Cafetera skipper Dayana Castillo helping herself to a brace. In the meantime, Nigeria and Canada shared the points in a game dominated by the Flamingoes but where the Canucks made a little go a long way.
The Nigerians were in less charitable mood against the Azeris, smashing 11 goals without reply to send their opponents spinning out of the competition, while the Canadians joined the Africans on four points after grafting their way to a 1-0 defeat of Colombia.
The combative South Americans found the Nigerians too strong in their final game and bowed out of the competition, just as Canada fulfilled expectations by beating Azerbaijan, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
Azerbaijan’s flag day
A crowd of over 30,000 was at the Tofig Bahramov Stadium to see the hosts kick off the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 against Colombia. The home fans gave their side a spectacular welcome too, holding up cards to form a mosaic in the colours of the national flag: red, blue and green.
Colombia make their mark
That game went the way of Las Cafeteras, as Castillo’s brace and further goals from Gabriela Maldonado and Laura Aguirre gave them an emphatic 4-0 victory, their first ever FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup win and Colombia’s biggest ever in a FIFA women’s tournament.
Nigeria’s nose for goal
Nigeria more than made up for their wayward finishing in the 1-1 draw with Canada, chalking 14 goals in their next two outings to end the group phase as the second-highest scorers. Responsible for six of those goals, not to mention four assists, Flamingo forward Chinwendu Ihezuo is also the tournament’s leading markswoman.
3 - The number of goals, one in each game, that Canada scored in joining Nigeria on seven points and booking their place in the last eight. Just as they did in 2008, when they struck two goals en route to the quarter-finals, the Canucks showed you do not need to win big to progress.
“We lost our quarter-final match in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010 because of a lack of concentration and experience. We’re ready for this tournament, though, and we feel we’re ready to win the trophy and that we’re capable of doing it,” Nigeria defender Sarah Nnodim.