Nigeria, England, USA and France all booked passage to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Chile 2008 on Wednesday. The Americans go through as Group B winners despite losing to China, while New Zealand conceded an agonising late goal against the English to miss out on becoming the first team from their island nation to reach the knockout phase of a FIFA finals.
The big match
England 1-1 New Zealand
Goals: Sarah McLaughlin 27 (New Zealand); Toni Duggan (England) 90+4
New Zealand were seconds away from making history for Oceania. Sarah McLaughlin's first-half strike had them leading 1-0 deep into second half stoppage time. But football, often cruel as well as beautiful, had more drama in store. England's Toni Duggan slammed a strike into the top corner in the 94th minute to turn New Zealand's 1-0 win into a 1-1 draw and turn their place in the quarter-finals into a long plane ride home. The English, back from the dead, finish in Group A on five points, second behind Nigeria.
The other matches
China PR saved the best for last on Wednesday, beating a new-look USA 2-0 in their final group match. However, it was too little too late for the Asians, who reached the final of the last two FIFA U-20 Women's finals. As they celebrated what they thought was a place in the quarters on the pitch after the final whistle in Temuco, bad news trickled in from up north in Santiago where France had stymied their best efforts with a come-from-behind win.
The French, down 1-0 at the half against Argentina, roared back to life in the second period, with Eugenie Le Sommer taking over the scoring duties for injured markswoman Marie-Laure Delie. She grabbed a brace in a 3-1 win and the result put France in the knockout rounds with a second-place finish behind the USA in Group B.
The other contest in Group A lacked the drama of the England-New Zealand game, as Nigeria put two past already eliminated hosts Chile in a 2-0 win that sewed up top spot for the Africans. Nigeria will now play France in their quarter-final, while the USA take on England.
Eugenie Le Sommer (France)
The Stade Briochin striker was the star for the French, who needed a heroine against Argentina. Coach Stephane Pilard was forced to bring off top scorer Marie-Laure Delie with a niggle at the half, and up stepped Le Sommer to take hold of the poaching mantle. Hitting home in the 65th and 80th minutes, the ace forward hauled the French back to a 3-1 win and a place in the quarter-finals.
11 - the number of U-20 Women's group stage games the US played before finally failing to score a goal. Their 2-0 loss to China PR on Wednesday, their twelfth group stage contest in FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup history, didn't matter in the least, as the fancied Americans still won their section with ease.
What they said...
"We still have a lot of work to do and we can see that we are not up to the level of some of the other teams. But this tournament is a great step forward for us and we can only thank the public for their support. We thank them with all our hearts," Marta Tejedor, Chile's coach after Las Rojitas lost their last game.