They have lost just one FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup game since 24 November 2004 – a group fixture with qualification already assured - so it is not in the least surprising that USA, the reigning champions, will be strong favourites to dominate Group D and maybe the entire tournament.
It is an amazing record and it says everything about the strength and reputation that Jill Ellis’ team will bring to the Germany event over the next three weeks. They begin the defence of their crown against tournament newcomers Ghana in what promises to be a baptism of fire for the Black Princesses. It is only the African nation's second appearance at a FIFA women’s youth tournament but they impressed in the qualification campaign where they didn’t concede a goal.
Switzerland and Korea Republic are interesting challengers in their own right with the Swiss aiming to build on last year’s impressive showing at the UEFA U-19 Women's European Championship, while the Koreans will be anxious to make an impact after missing the last two FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup editions and having exited at the group stage in Thailand six years ago.
The matches (all kick-offs in local time)
USA-Ghana, Dresden, 14 July, 18:00
Switzerland-Korea Republic, Dresden, 14 July, 15:00
USA-Switzerland, Dresden, 17 July, 18:00
Ghana-Korea Republic, Dresden, 17 July, 15:00
Korea Republic-USA, Bielefeld, 21 July 18:00
Ghana-Switzerland, Bochum, 21 July 18:00
How they qualified
Ghana: Winners of play-off at the CAF U-20 Women’s Championship 2010
Korea Republic: Second in the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2009
Switzerland: Semi-finalists at UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship 2009
USA: Winners of the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship 2010
The brand new Rudolf-Harbig Stadion, opened on 15 September 2009, provides a magnificent setting for the Group D matches. Seating 32,066 spectators, it is the home of Dynamo Dresden, the city’s leading club and at one time a major force in the GDR top flight.
Capital of the Free State of Saxony, Dresden is situated on both sides of the Elbe and is Germany’s fourth-biggest city by area. The attractive surrounding landscape and Mediterranean architecture have earned it the soubriquet ‘Florence on the Elbe’. It also has many outstanding landmarks: the most prominent of which are the Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche), completely reconstructed in 2005, the Semper opera house and Zwinger Palace.
Dresden will host the first four matches in the section, and then a last-day game from each of groups A and B. The final two games in group D will be played in Bielefeld and Bochum.
The crunch match
After their opening-day fixtures, these teams will be really looking to hit their stride in this showdown on 17 July. USA’s record in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is formidable but they will be wary of the Swiss who are providing evidence that they are a looming force in the women’s game at all levels. A victory for Yannick Schwery’s underdogs would make the rest of the 15 teams really sit up and take notice of them while landing a crushing blow on the US’s dream of global dominance once again.
The opening gambit
“I wouldn’t say we’re coming to the tournament to defend the trophy, I’d say we’re taking part with the aim of winning it again. It’s a big difference, because at the end of the day, we’re talking about a completely new team. Only two of the squad played at the 2008 finals in Chile, although one of them is Sydney Leroux [winner of the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Shoe two years ago]," USA coach Jill Ellis.