Female football powerhouse Germany will be the team to watch as the second FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup kicks-off this week in Trinidad and Tobago. The Europeans, who finished third in UEFA qualifying for the Caribbean showpiece and third at the first U-17 women’s finals in New Zealand two years ago, open their account against CONCACAF strivers Mexico in a Group B that also includes African outsiders South Africa and growing Asian power Korea Republic.
The road to T&T
Germany: Crowned champions of Europe in both 2008 and 2009, the Germans had to be content with reaching Trinidad and Tobago 2010 from third-place in UEFA. They fell to the Republic of Ireland in the last four of the qualifying competition, but managed to book passage with a win over the Dutch in the third-place play-off. All told, the Germans won six of their eight qualifiers, scoring 22 goals and conceding only one.
Mexico: The Mexicans are playing in their first U-17 women’s finals here in T&T, but the side are fast becoming a force in the women’s junior ranks. They roared to the final of the CONCACAF qualifying competition, eventually losing out by the only goal in a fierce final with champions Canada.
Korea Republic: The young East Asians are likely a force to be reckoned with in Trinidad if their championship form in AFC is any indication. Free-flowing and full of goals in the Asian qualifying rounds, they hammered defending world champions Korea DPR 4-0 in the competition’s final to stand themselves right in line with Germany as top dogs in Group B. With four wins and a draw in the qualifiers, the South Koreans bagged an astonishing 23 goals while conceding only two.
South Africa: The South Africans hold the proud mantle as the first team from the Republic to have reached a FIFA women’s tournament, and they will have their work cut out in a demanding section. After falling in qualifying to continental powers Nigeria, the South African ladies sealed a nail-biter of a play-off with Tunisia to book their date with history in the Caribbean.
The big match
Korea Republic - Germany
With reigning Asian champions Korea Republic and European heavyweights Germany facing off in the third and final game in the group, all could well and truly be on the line. Both sides will be expected to get the better of Mexico and South Africa, making the final section contest between the two a battle for first place, a position which can make all the difference in the knockout rounds.
Did you know?
Germany have replaced USA as the world’s top producer of female football talent. They have won the last two senior FIFA Women’s World Cups, only once finishing outside the top four in that global showpiece. They are also holders of the U-20 Women’s World Cup, having only once finished out of the top four in that prestigious competition. Finishing third at the inaugural U-17 finals in New Zealand, the Germans will be hoping to go a little farther second time around.