Group B: Korea DPR excel, USA exit
© Getty Images

"For me, there's no doubt about it," said USA coach Albertin Montoya before a single ball had been kicked at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. "We've been drawn in the toughest group in the competition. France and Korea DPR are two formidable teams." Unfortunately for the Stars and Stripes, those words were soon to prove prophetic.

It came down to goal difference in the end, but there was no disputing the final standings as USA finished third behind the North Koreans and Les Bleuettes. They were therefore forced to bid a premature farewell to Azerbaijan, as were newcomers Gambia, who lacked sufficient experience to really mount a challenge but can console themselves with having struck their first ever goal in a FIFA women's tournament.

Analysis

Korea DPR took control of the section right from the off, beginning their campaign with an 11-0 defeat of Gambia thanks partly to the talents of Ri Un-Sim, who registered in every game and has racked up five goals so far. France got their bid going with a goalless draw against USA, despite clearly dominating the game, while they were held again in their second outing as they stood firm to secure a 1-1 stalemate with Korea DPR. That allowed the Stars and Stripes to move level at the summit with one match remaining by sweeping aside Gambia 6-0.

France's hopes of qualification thus came down to their meeting with the African debutants, and needing to win by more than six goals they duly delivered with a 10-2 triumph that ensured their first ever passage to the last eight. Elsewhere, Korea DPR and USA played out a 1-1 draw that provoked a tearful farewell from the American players at the final whistle. Indeed, never before have a USA team exited a FIFA women's tournament at the very first hurdle.

Memorable moments
Record breakers

It took 18 minutes of play in Baku's 8km Stadium for Korea DPR to conjure the first goal at Azerbaijan 2012, but Choe Yun-Gyong's breakthrough effort really opened the floodgates. Her side rattled in five more before half-time and added another five in the second period as they recorded the most emphatic victory in the history of FIFA women's tournaments. The Asian hopefuls were not done there either and they set another benchmark in their game against USA, equalising a record 72 seconds after falling behind. That beat the target of 80 seconds it had taken France's Kadidiatou Diani to end their own celebrations just four days earlier.

Knock on wood
France struck the woodwork no fewer than seven times in their final group outing against Gambia – and five of those occasions resulted in the ball rebounding back into play. Fortune finally smiled on Les Bleuettes after the break, however, as Candice Gherbi scored in off a post and Kadidiatou Diani did likewise off the crossbar to help complete the resounding win they needed. As for USA, they hit the bar in the closing minutes of their encounter with the North Koreans – but in their case, luck was not on their side.

USA held at bay
USA will no doubt look back on the first half of their game against Gambia when it comes to analysing where they fell short. Summer Green made CONCACAF history by plundering 12 goals in qualifying, but she and her colleagues were frustrated time and again by the Girl Scorpions during the opening period at Baku's Dalga Arena. A solitary penalty scored by Green was all they could muster in the first 45 minutes, and ultimately they finished third due to a goal difference just two goals worse off than France's.

The stat
13
– On target in the 69th minute of Gambia's meeting with France, the African side's Sainey Sissohore became the youngest scorer in FIFA women's tournament history.

The quote
"The final standings in our group make sense. They reflect what happened in the matches perfectly, as Korea DPR had the upper hand against us and we were better than USA," Lea Declerqc, France forward.

Final standings
1. Korea DPR - 5 points
2. France - 5
3. USA - 5
4. Gambia - 0

Next up
Korea DPR-Canada, Baku, 4 October, 17.00 (local time)
Nigeria-France, Baku, 4 October, 20.00 (local time)