The second round of group-stage matches at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2008 in Chile gets underway on Saturday with a heavyweight clash between France and China PR, both of whom made false starts to the tournament and are now under immense pressure. In the parallel group, the host nation will need all the help they can get from their passionate fans when they meet the Football Ferns from New Zealand in a match with a do-or-die character for both teams.
The big match
China PR-France, Chillan, 22 November, 3 pm (local time)
Neither Zhang Guilai nor Stephane Pilard attempted to hide his disappointment on Wednesday evening, as the China PR and France coaches both knew that a scoreless draw with Argentina and a 3-0 defeat to the USA respectively were poor results with which to kick off the tournament. The two sides realistically vying to emerge from Group B on the coat-tails of the powerful Americans now cross swords in a crunch encounter.
The Chinese will be focused on increasing their effectiveness in front of goal, whereas the Europeans need to recover fast from the opening day blow to their morale and knuckle down to the task at hand, as defeat could spell the end of their dreams in Chile. "We have to win our next two matches," Pilard acknowledged.
The other matches
With a chorus of praise ringing in their ears and their confidence sky-rocketing, the mood in the USA camp could hardly be more of a contrast. Tony DiCicco’s side go looking for a win over Argentina that would guarantee their place in the quarter-finals. Despite their heroics in thwarting the Chinese on opening day, the South Americans rank as outsiders against the USA, not least in the light of the result when the teams met at the group stage in Russia two years ago, a clear-cut 4-1 success for the Stars and Stripes.
Over in Group A, opening-day winners England and Nigeria meet in Coquimbo. Whoever emerges on top takes pole position in the race to finish first in the section. A fascinating dimension to the clash will be watching which of two diametrically opposed philosophies comes off best: the technically gifted Africans’ guile and craft, or the tactical discipline and rugged physical strength offered by Mo Marley’s side.
In the parallel fixture, neither Chile nor New Zealand can afford to lose for the second time on the bounce, as both teams have their backs to the wall. An absorbing encounter seems on the cards, pitting the boisterous and enthusiastic home support against the attacking strength of the Oceania line-up, who managed to penetrate the Nigerians’ solid rearguard on two occasions. Furthermore, a draw would realistically do little for either team.
1 – The number of goals when England and Nigeria met just a matter of days ago at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Jessica Holbrook’s decisive strike took the Europeans to the top of their group on six points from two matches. Is recent history set to repeat itself?
"There’s a game coming which we’re destined to win. And it’s coming soon!" Marta Tejedor, Chile coach
All the matches
Nigeria-England (6 pm)
Chile-New Zealand (9 pm)
China PR-France (3 pm)