The group phase of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014 has just reached its conclusion, with the line-up for the quarter-finals now complete.
For the eight sides that have exited the competition, meanwhile, all that remains are memories and regret, though they do have plenty of good reasons to be optimistic about the future.
FIFA.com spoke to some of the departing players and coaches and asked them for their views on Costa Rica 2014 and what they will take away from the tournament.
The host nation’s dreams of glory were shattered by three defeats in as many games in Group A. Speaking after the third of those reverses, which came against Zambia, Ticas skipper Gloriana Villalobos reflected on the lessons she learned during the tournament.
“The most important thing I’ve found is that you need to have values and that you can never, never let your head drop. You have to fight for what you want,” said the talented No10. “If I ever get the chance to enjoy another experience like this, then I’d try to concentrate more on the team rather than me as an individual. My attitude would be more focused on the others around me and I’d give everything for the team."
For team-mate Sofia Varela, who scored Costa Rica’s only goal of the tournament, the highlight of the past few days was the incredible support they received from the home fans from start to finish.
“We expected to be playing in front of a full stadium in the opening match, but we were really surprised to see a packed crowd for the second game too,” she explained. “The last match was a very emotional experience for us. The fans stayed behind after the final whistle to show and sing their support for us.”
Hard to swallow
As for Zambia, who were making their first ever appearance in a FIFA Women’s World Cup, the disappointment of their early elimination was alleviated a little by their victory against the hosts, as their smiling striker Janny Mubanga explained:
“Our opening two games were tough, but I’m happy because we managed to come away with a victory against Costa Rica. I didn’t think we were going to win a game because this is the first time our country has appeared in this competition.”
As for Germany, a formidable force in every age group in world football, their surprising early exit has been harder to take.
“Nobody thought for a minute that we’d be going home after the group phase,” said a downcast Ricarda Walkling. “Even when you lose, though, you can always pick up some valuable experience. It was a real pleasure to take part in this tournament, and it was a chance for us to progress as a team and on an individual level.”
Germany coach Anouschka Bernhard had this to say about her side: “Our players are very well coached in technical and tactical terms but we need to work on the physical side of things and learn how to handle pressure, which is something a lot of other teams have done better than us.”
Equally disappointed were China PR, who were expecting far more in what was their second appearance in the competition but were out of the running after just two games. Coach Gao Hong, a former Steel Roses player and a legend of Chinese women’s football, took stock of the challenges that lie ahead for her young players.
“A World Cup is like no other competition,” she said. “The style of play is totally different. In China for example, players aren’t used to the kind of physical contact they experienced here. They need to improve their possession play, learn how to handle the pressure when the opposition closes them down, and play at a faster pace.”
For these four nations and fellow casualties Korea DPR, New Zealand, Paraguay and Colombia, Costa Rica 2014 has proved a harsh but unforgettable experience, and the lessons they have learned from it will stand their future generations in very good stead.