Friday’s two quarter-finals at Azerbaijan 2012 will be contested by four sides who have never missed a FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, although Japan and Germany are the only members of the quartet who are ever-presents in the last eight.
Ghana’s Black Maidens have reached this stage of the competition for the first time in their history, while Brazil bowed out in round one at New Zealand 2008 and fell in the last eight at Trinidad and Tobago 2010.
Match of the day
Japan-Ghana, Baku, Friday 5 October 2012, 20:00 (local time)
This clash of styles pits the athleticism of the Ghanaians against the tactical ingenuity of the Japanese, both schools having performed with distinction so far at Azerbaijan 2012. The Africans upset the odds in Group D by edging out a highly promising China PR side, and Japan were in a league of their own in Group C.
Much has been said about Japan’s formidable strike force, the most prolific in the tournament, although their miserly defence has been no less impressive: the Little Nadeshiko are the only side in the competition yet to concede a goal. Spearheaded by the dangerous Jane Ayieyman, Ghana are sure to put that record to the test. Like Korea DPR’s Ri Un-Sim, the No3 has scored in every game so far, hitting four goals in all.
The other match
Germany-Brazil, Baku, Friday 5 October 2012, 17:00 (local time)
Respectively beaten by Korea DPR and Spain in the quarter-finals two years ago, Germany and Brazil have earned themselves an opportunity to atone for those disappointments. The reigning European champions are the only nation never to have lost a FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup group match and advanced from their first-round pool without a great deal of fuss.
In contrast the Brazilians have blown hot and cold in the Land of Fire, slumping to a heavy loss in their opening game in Group C before recovering to claim second place, albeit with a negative goal difference.
In spite of their differing statistics, this is a close one to call. Anouschka Bernhard’s side were not quite as imperious in their group as the figures suggest and needed a last-gasp Ricarda Kiessling header to avoid defeat against China PR. For their part, the unpredictable Brazilians will be banking on the flamboyant skills of Byanca to help them win the day.
Player to watch
Yui Narumiya has lived up to her billing as a potential star of the tournament. The Japan captain lit up each and every one of her side’s group games with her skill, scoring three goals in all, serving up countless assists and doing everything else with style. Once again, she will be the main attraction when the Little Nadeshiko run out against Ghana.
42 - Germany coach Anouschka Bernhard turns 42 on Friday. No prizes for guessing what she will be wanting for her birthday.
“The Japanese haven’t faced any big teams like Germany, China or Ghana yet. We have, though, and that’s what makes me believe that we’re absolutely ready for this match,” Ghana coach Mas-Ud Dramani.