It always seems, at every tournament, that the dream dies far too quickly for the unlucky teams. For those not going through to the next stage, there is a return home after just three games.
Mostly teams go highlighting the positives; sometimes they depart posing serious questions of themselves but in nearly every case there is agreement that they will be better for the experience of having taken part.
So it is with the eight teams who have gone from the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010. Probably the biggest surprise was to see Brazil among them because in the previous four tournaments they have always reached the quarter-finals – and made the semi-finals no less than three times.
Pressure for Brazil
Coach Marcos Gaspar acknowledged the pressure his players must face. “Brazil always have the responsibility to progress to the second round, it does nor matter which team you are involved with," he explained. "We have good players in Brazil but unfortunately we don’t have the competitions to give the girls experience to compete in tournaments like this.”
Both England and Japan finished as U-19 continental champions in 2009 and were expected to give a good account of themselves. Sadly, that didn’t materialise although Japan came very close and with only 13 minutes remaining of their final game – the 3-1 defeat of England - they were poised to continue their challenge into the last eight until Mexico struck with an equaliser against Nigeria.
“That’s the negative part for us, not qualifying, but even though we have not made it through it has still been a very, very good experience for us,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki. England coach Mo Marley was forced to highlight the difference in quality between the European championship and the FIFA World Cup. “We’ve seen a different level of organisation among the teams here than we are used to and it’s something we need to work on,” she said.
England qualified in first place along with Sweden (runners-up) and France and Switzerland (semi-finalists) but only the Scandinavians survived the group stage. It was a disappointment for France after their triumph at the 2010 U-19 European Championships but their players have nevertheless savoured the Germany experience.
Midfielder Charlotte Bilbault said: “The atmosphere in Germany is different to France because football here is more important and well-supported. You notice it especially in women’s football.”
Harbouring the biggest disappointment are Switzerland - who failed to score a goal - New Zealand and Costa Rica who all lost three games. Swiss coach Yannick Schwery, who was obviously handicapped by star player Ramona Bachmann's injuries, praised his players’ efforts in adversity. “They really wanted to score this one goal in the tournament in our last match,” he said. “They did not make it, but they would have deserved it”.
For New Zealand coach Tony Readings there was some consolation in the fact that Group B was widely regarded as “the group of death”. He said: “When you see a team of the quality of Brazil not progressing then it emphasises the strength of the group."
While for Costa Rica's Randall Chacon there was frustration that his team produced their worst performance under his leadership in the final game against Colombia. “We have to continue to work hard to get to the World Cup again and we also need to improve our national league so that when we return we have the chance to reach the quarter-finals,” he said.