Asia’s representatives were in a league of their own at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010. Korea Republic, Japan and Korea DPR all reached the semi-finals with some impressive displays of creative yet organised football that bodes well for their respective futures.
Another feature of a hugely entertaining tournament that yielded a total of 125 goals and witnessed plenty of attacking football, was the strength of the European challenge, while the CONCACAF and South American sides fell disappointingly short of their objectives.
The stars of the show were the South Koreans, who snatched the gold medal from the enterprising Japanese in an exciting final that produced six goals in normal time and ended with a typically nerve-jangling penalty decider. The outcome was harsh on the young Nadeshiko, who had ended the hopes of defending champions Korea DPR in the semi-finals and habitually fielded a refreshingly attack-minded formation comprising three strikers.
The two outstanding players of the tournament were Korea Republic striker Yeo Min-Ji, the winner of the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot, and Japan’s inspiration, Kumi Yokoyama, who collected the adidas Bronze Boot and Silver Ball. With their goals and creativity on the ball, the crowd-pleasing duo inspired their teams to the top two places on the podium.
“The Asian teams have shown how strong and competitive they are. They have a strong and structured plan from the grassroots level upwards and that’s bearing fruit for them,” commented FIFA Technical Study Group member Sylvie Beliveau, who like many observers was impressed by the intricate build-up play, technical attributes and tactical maturity of the Asian trio.
The only side to threaten their superiority were tournament debutants Spain, who reached the last four only to lose narrowly to the eventual champions. Stylish in possession, Las Rojitas could also count on the best goalkeeper in the competition, Dolores Gallardo, who enjoyed a superb three weeks.
The Republic of Ireland also did Europe proud, going down bravely to Japan in the last eight, while no side looked more dangerous in the group phase than free-scoring Germany. But after hitting 22 goals in their section and conceding just the one, the Germans were knocked out by the disciplined North Koreans in the quarter-finals, one of the surprise results of Trinidad and Tobago 2010.
The second FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup brought mixed results for Africa. South Africa had a debut to forget, going home early after conceding 17 goals in their group games, a tournament record. Ghana failed to make it out of Group D but did show some encouraging signs for the future, while Nigeria, led by the tireless threesome of Francisca Ordega, Loveth Ayila and Ngozi Okobi, went out at the quarter-final stage after an almighty 11-goal struggle with the South Koreans.
Can do better
Of the seven qualifiers from the CONCACAF, South American and Oceania zones only Brazil survived the group phase. Even then, A Canarinha were unable to replicate the form they showed in the South American Women’s U-17 Championship, with Glaucia struggling in front of goal and the tricks and turns of Thais proving insufficient against Spain in the quarters.
After their intensive preparations hosts Trinidad and Tobago put in a creditable performance for a nation with no real tradition in the women’s game. The Soca Princesses’ opening-day win over Chile had the home fans beating their steel drums in appreciation, although it was not enough to inspire them to the knockout rounds.
Scarborough, Port of Spain, Arima, Couva and Marabella.
Names to look out for
Yeo Min-Ji (KOR), Kumi Yokoyama (JPN), Dolores Gallardo (ESP), Kim Kum-Jong (PRK), Amanda Sampedro (ESP), Lena Petermann (GER), Hikaru Naomoto (JPN), Ngozi Okobi (NGA), Thais (BRA), Haruna Kawashima (JPN), Kim Are-Um (KOR).
FIFA Fair Play Award
125 (3.90 per match)
8: Yeo Min-Ji (KOR )
7: Kyra Malinowski (GER)
6: Kumi Yokoyama (JPN)
4,567 (average per match)