Thursday’s final round of group matches in Chile promises nothing less than pulsating drama and high tension. Coquimbo and Chillan provide the settings where the fates of European giants Norway and Germany, defending champions Korea DPR and CONCACAF champions Canada will be decided. Meanwhile, Japan and Brazil will be attempting to preserve 100 per cent records and underline their burgeoning trophy credentials.
The big game
Germany-Canada, Coquimbo, 27 November, 7 pm (local)
Who would have thought it? Maren Meinert’s trophy favourites and Ian Bridge’s talented ensemble go head-to-head in Group C to decide who will be joining Japan in the quarter-finals. A full-strength Germany hold the edge over the Canadians in that a draw would be enough for the Europeans, but the tension in both camps has been palpable over the last couple of days.
In any case, the game between two teams comfortably outplayed by the technically gifted Japanese offers many points of interest, not least because the sides both boast exceptional physical robustness. The match thus offers a classic trial of strength between teams with very similar playing styles. The only previous FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup meeting between the nations ended in a 3-3 draw at Thailand 2004, enough to see both teams through to the next stage. On this occasion, one of the pair will bid Chile a tearful farewell.
The other games
In the parallel fixture, Congo DR have nothing left to play for but pride. The Africans are already out of the tournament but have delighted the Chilean crowds at times with moments of individual brilliance. However, lack of experience has been their undoing, and they have yet to score in two heavy defeats. Can they rectify that omission against the stylish Japanese? Norio Sasaki’s team require only a draw to finish top of Group C.
Over in Group D, the main contest is a long-distance affair between the Koreans and the Norwegians. However, despite winning both their opening fixtures, leaders Brazil are not definitely sure of their place in the next round and could yet exit the tournament in the event of a heavy defeat. Norway, level on points with Korea DPR, need to beat the South Americans as soundly as possible, or at the very least achieve a better result than the world champions, who contest the parallel fixture against Mexico.
As the Mexicans have yet to register a point at the event, the smart money is on Brazil and Korea DPR to make the quarters, although Kwang Sok Choe’s team cannot afford to ease up against El Tri, who are themselves not yet mathematically condemned to packing for home. Moreover, the team spearheaded by 17-year-old star-in-the-making Charlyn Corral are grimly determined to make up for a 4-0 defeat to the Asians at Russia 2006.
0 – The number of Canadian wins over Germany in three previous meetings at FIFA Women’s tournaments. Is a maiden victory on the cards, or are the North Americans destined for a sad exit?
What they said
"If we hit our stride, anything’s possible against any opponents," Kim Kulig Germany midfielder.
All the matches
Korea DPR-Mexico (16.00)
Japan-Congo DR (19.00)