France and USA became the first two teams to qualify for the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2008 in Chile. Almost everyone expected the Americans to get this far, while the French are very much the surprise package, having made it to the last four in this competition for the first time. Both teams have, in particular, one player to thank for their progress. Eugenie Le Sommer and Sydney Leroux have scored four goals each so far during the tournament.
Once again, it was Le Sommer who made the difference. The brilliant 19-year-old striker from Stade Briochin stood up to the physical test of the Nigerian defence and used her excellent skills to propel France to a victory that will raise the profile of women's football in her homeland.
An early Julie Machart goal was cancelled out by Nigeria as the Africans took control of the game. Ebere Orji and Joy Jegede made it 2-1 before the break and it looked as if Nigeria were coasting through to the semi-finals. Attacking midfielder Rita Chikwelu was not at her best, however, and could not score the goal that would have put the game beyond doubt. Instead, Le Sommer notched her fourth of the tournament to make it 2-2, before an incredible individual strike by Nora Coton Pelagie gave victory to the French. After such a stirring comeback, France will now be full of confidence.
England used their physical strength to keep the Americans at bay for much of the match, but as soon as the favourites had taken the lead, it was one-way traffic. Tony DiCicco's girls showed great patience, and the breakthrough finally came in the 53rd minute thanks to Keelin Winters. Thereatfer, the result was in no doubt as the US team stepped up a gear.
Sydney Leroux scored twice in the last quarter of an hour to give the scoreline a look which did not flatter the English, but was a fair reflection of just how clinical USA are in front of goal. Mo Marley's team were disciplined and tactically well organised, but the Americans proved that they are very much a force to be reckoned with and will prove a stiff test for the winners of the quarter-final between Brazil and Germany.
Nora Coton Pelagie (France)
By the time the tricky winger was sent on by coach Pilard to start the second half, all the signs pointed to a Nigeria win. The 20-year-old had other ideas, though, creating all sorts of attacking pressure down the left flank and sending over a perfect cross right on to Le Sommer's head for the equaliser. There was more to come however. In the 88th minute, the Paris Saint-Germain player's big moment came as she let fly with an incredible strike from distance, which cannoned against the inside of the post and bounced over the line to send France through. Coton Pelagie was still celebrating a good hour after the final whistle - and rightly so.
What they said
I am really pleased that I managed another two-goal haul. We don't care who we play against now, we're just focusing on ourselves and on our own strengths, USA forward Sydney Leroux