For an hour or so at the start of Group D, a disturbance to the world order of women's U-20 football looked to be taking place. Ghana, making their first appearance at this level, were leading USA, the reigning champions, 1-0 in Dresden and threatening to add to their score. In the end the US salvaged a draw and since then have been more like their normal, winning selves, while Korea Republic matched them almost stride for stride in taking the second qualifying place. The west Africans, disappointed to miss out on a quarter-final berth, can nevertheless take great heart from their performances. Only Switzerland returned home with regrets.
The tale of the teams
After the US had saved themselves against Ghana they went from strength to strength, putting five goals past the Swiss and then edging out Korea Republic to ensure they finished as group winners, something they have managed in all five FIFA U-20 World Cups.
Ghana continued making good impressions, running Korea Republic very close in a roller-coaster of a contest that they were unlucky to lose 4-2. Then they defeated the luckless Switzerland 2-0 to finish on four points but not with the qualifying berth that looked likely at one time. Nevertheless with the talent they possessed in striker Florence Dadson and their array of midfield talent, Ghana look sure to be a notable contender in women’s football in the years to come.
Korea Republic arrived in Germany with a solid reputation at this level and in spells they were the most impressive of the four teams who were centred in Germany’s eastern venue. They also possess one of the tournament’s brightest stars in Ji So-Yun, who scored five goals in the first two fixtures - a hat-trick in the 4-0 defeat of Switzerland followed by two goals against Ghana.
With qualification already assured, the South Koreans' coach Choi In-Cheul decided to leave Ji out of the starting line-up for the game against USA and their opponents were able to exploit an inexperienced team thanks to Sydney Leroux’s first-half goal, her fifth so far – as many as she scored at Chile 2008 where she collected the adidas Golden Shoe. Three goals came in the 5-0 defeat of Switzerland, which was one of three losses for the Europeans, who conceded 11 goals in total without finding the net once themselves. They will be better for the chastening experience.
Skill, balance and imagination: For those unaware of Ji's talent before the tournament, there was a lovely moment early in the game with Switzerland when she suddenly changed direction in the blink of an eye and wrong-footed her markers. It was a subtle moment, but very telling, and there was much more to come from her in that game.
When your luck is out, it’s really out: Switzerland created some real openings against USA and they were justified in claiming the 5-0 scoreline was unjust. Ana Crnogorcevic might have scored before US got going, she had another terrific drive sail centimetres wide, and then saw goalkeeper Bianca Henninger pull off a tremendous save when tipping her drive on to the bar. And that was just in the first half.
Did they have second sight: After their second game, the US unfurled a large banner proclaiming: 'Danke Dresden' ('Thank you Dresden') which they displayed to all sides of the Dresden Arena. It had the appearance of a farewell greeting but in fact the Americans were due to return to the city for the quarter-final if they finished as Group D runners-up, which looked most likely as they trailed Korea Republic going into the last game. USA won that fixture which meant their quarter-final would be staged in Augsburg, and not back in Dresden. It was if they knew all along...
5 – USA have appeared in all five FIFA U-20 World Cups and each time they have finished top of the group.
“We were close to reaching the quarter-finals and Nigeria actually made it to the next round. So I really think that women’s football in Africa is currently making progress,” James Dadzie, Ghana coach