After the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany came to a thrilling conclusion with host nation Germany defeating Nigeria 2-0, awards were handed out to honour the top goalscorers and best players of the tournament.
Nineteen-year-old Alexandra Popp was the driving force behind Germany, notching no fewer than ten goals in front of her home crowd to scoop the award for top-scorer in the competition. Her prowess in front of goal proved decisive yet again in the final, while her consistent performances over the past three weeks saw her chosen as the tournament’s best player.
FIFA.com brings you a round-up of the most important awards at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany and a brief description of the talented young players who picked up the various prizes.
adidas Gold, Silver and Bronze Balls
adidas Golden Ball: Alexandra Popp (GER, who won 50.79% of votes from the accreditied media at the event)
adidas Silver Ball: Ji So-Yun (KOR, 14.66%)
adidas Bronze Ball: Kim Kulig (GER, 9.16%)
Alexandra Popp: The left-footed Popp stamped her class on the competition. Despite having six full international caps to her name, she has yet to be given a set position for either club or country. A deadly striker at this tournament, Popp has also been deployed in defence and midfield for her club FCR Duisburg, where she makes full use of her strength in the air and in the tackle as well as her overall ability to read the game. She is a real talent and fully deserving of the best player of the tournament award. "The coach asked me to dictate play and to lead the team,” said the affable 19-year-old to FIFA.com. “I think that I’m doing that pretty well at the moment. My team-mates give me a good supply of possession and all I have to do is put the ball away."
Ji So-Yun: Her range and quantity of goals quickly won her a place in the hearts of spectators, over 21,000 of whom witnessed her team’s quarter-final success over Mexico in Dresden. The lightning-fast 19-year-old attacker managed eight goals during the tournament, second only to Alexandra Popp, earning Ji plaudits not just from Germany fans but also from experts and journalists alike. She nevertheless kept her feet firmly on the ground and was quick to place the work of her team-mates ahead of her own performances. "I know exactly what the coach thinks of me,” she said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “He knows how to motivate us all, saying: 'We need to all play together, as that is the only way that women’s football will develop and become more successful'. I am just one small part of a big picture.”
Kim Kulig: The German midfielder proved to be a real team player, strong on the ball and with an eye for a pass, invariably picking out an attacker. Kim Kulig was the main reason why Germany managed to maintain possession on a regular basis, but her play was not just limited to defensive duties, as her two goals in the semi-final against Korea Republic illustrated. Strong in the air, the 20-year-old always looks to move the ball forward, meaning that she is at the origin of plenty of attacking moves. She also has a real physical presence, making her appear a veritable woman among girls. "I was a little flat before the World Cup and I really had to grit my teeth during training in the build-up to the tournament," she said to FIFA.com. "The matches were all very tough but now I can see that I have actually been getting fitter all the time. I feel a lot more fresh now and I’m playing better out on the park."
adidas Gold, Silver and Bronze Shoes
adidas Golden Boo: Alexandra Popp (GER) - 10 goals
adidas Silver Boot: Ji So-Yun (KOR) - 8 goals
adidas Bronze Boot: Sydney Leroux (USA) - 5 goals
Alexandra Popp: The 19-year-old proved as early as the opening match against Costa Rica that she knows where the back of the net is, notching twice in Germany’s 4-2 win. And once she had got a taste for goals, there was no stopping her. Scoring at least once in every match, she ended up as her team’s leading scorer, a feat made more surprising by the fact that she plays either in defence or midfield for her club FCR Duisburg. By the end of the tournament however, the lethal blonde had proved that her future surely lies as an attacker.
Adidas Golden Glove
American goalkeeper Bianca Henninger showed throughout the tournament that she is very much the number one, and not just for the USA U-20 team. The 19-year-old was in sparkling form as soon as she got to Germany, and conceded only one goal during the group stage. Defeat finally came, but only after penalties against Nigeria in the quarter-finals. A calming presence, she is also rock-solid when it comes to catching crosses, and communicates well with her defenders.
FIFA Fair Play Award
As well as finishing third overall, Korea Republic have another piece of silverware to be proud of: the FIFA Fair Play Award. The team showed exemplary sportsmanship throughout the tournament, both on and off the pitch, and were worthy winners of this prize, which captain Kim Hye-Ri received on behalf of her team-mates.
As part of their initiative to promote fair and clean football, FIFA judged this award based on an evaluation by the members of the FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG), who carried out a continuous assessment of the behaviour of the various teams on and off the pitch. The overall aim was to promote and strengthen the spirit of fair play among players, coaches, backroom staff and also fans at FIFA tournaments.