THE DAY REPLAYED - The FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012 in Azerbaijan came to a fitting end on Saturday with a tense and thrilling final between France and Korea DPR. The sides could not be separated in normal time, but Les Bleuettes finally overcame the determined and skilful Asians on penalties to seal their maiden triumph in this tournament.
The Europeans were worthy champions too, as they won four, drew two, and lost none of their six matches. That represents tournament play of the highest order, also reflected in the award of the adidas Golden Ball for the best player to outstanding defender Griedge Mbock Bathy.
Earlier in the day, Ghana made history as Mas-Ud Dramani’s side won the third-place play-off against reigning U-17 women's European champions Germany with a first-half goal from Priscilla Okyere. The Black Maidens captured the hearts of the crowd with their relentless battling spirit, as they survived almost 60 minutes with only ten players and ultimately reaped the reward for their efforts.
Goal of the day
France-Korea DPR, Lea Declercq (33’)
The opening goal in the final came from a magnificent French attacking move, Ghoutia Karchouni unleashing a sublime pass from the halfway line into the path of Lea Declercq. The France No7 outpaced her marker Ri Un-Yong and created space to shoot before lashing an unstoppable 15-yard drive past goalkeeper Rim Yong-Hwa.
When rivals turn comrades
For the second time in the tournament, the German U-17 juniors showed a tremendous sense of fair play and comradeship between rivals. In the group match against China PR, it was Vivien Beil who rushed to assist opponent Zhang Chen when she fell victim to cramp, and in the third-place play-off, Laura Leluschko was first on the scene to help Priscilla Okyere, who had opened the scoring for Ghana shortly beforehand. Okyere had fallen to the turf for no discernible reason and had to be substituted with an injury.
Ghana make history
When the referee blew the final whistle on the third-place play-off, the African players erupted with joy where they stood. Even captain Okyere managed to join in, hopping on her one uninjured leg to join her team-mates and celebrate a stirring victory. No Ghana team had ever previously survived the group stage at a FIFA women's tournament and the Black Maidens arrived as rank outsiders, but they leave Azerbaijan as the undoubted surprise package.
Colourful closing ceremony
The closing ceremony prior to the final was a riot of blazing colour, traditional costume and typical folk instruments, yet again underlining the beauty and richness of Azerbaijani culture. To the background of tuneful local music, a ball juggler surrounded by colourfully clad local dancers showed off her skills in the centre circle, whetting the crowd’s anticipation for the final showdown.
Romane conquest as Bruneau turns hero
In the penalty shoot-out to settle the absorbing final between France and Korea DPR, French 'keeper Romane Bruneau finished as the hero, not only saving from Kim Un-Hwa and Ri Un-Yong, but also shouldering responsibility and scoring a spot-kick herself. Bruneau was consistently excellent throughout the tournament, and duly picked up the adidas Golden Glove as best goalkeeper.
Superstar Shakira whips crowd into frenzy
The FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012 finished with a spectacular climax as the players collected their awards, and a world superstar took to the stage. It was Jennifer Lopez who wowed the crowds at the opening ceremony, but the honours at the end fell to Shakira, who rocked Tofig Bahramov Stadium in Baku with her hits “Waka Waka” and “Addicted To You”, celebrating with the players on a fabulous final day.
Stat of the day
1 – France became the first European team to lay hands on the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. The trophy went to Korea DPR at New Zealand 2008, and Korea Republic in Trinidad and Tobago two years later. It was also the first time France have contested a final at a FIFA women's tournament.
“We didn’t estimate our rival correctly. France really played well. At the end they won. We are not pessimistic about the outcome because it is not bad result. The organisational matters of the tournament were perfect. It was the best one,” Hwang Yong Bong, Korea DPR head coach