Germany appear intent on retaining their FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup crown next year in Uzbekistan, given the manner of their stunning 8-1 win in the final of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 championship on Saturday.
The reigning world champions will be joined in Uzbekistan by fellow European representatives Italy, Norway and Switzerland, with the quartet becoming the first nations to qualify for the sixth edition of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
New standards set
Maren Meinert's German side claimed their fourth European crown in imperious fashion, dominating all five matches, before a record final victory. The 2010 world champions bagged a remarkable 17 goals across their five matches. Germany completed Group B with a perfect record to finish three points clear of Norway, while Netherlands and Spain were forced to make do with just a point apiece.
Germany set the standard throughout the eight-nation Italy-based tournament, kick-starting their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Norway. Germany's midfield proved to be their ace with Isabella Schmid and Eunice Beckmann always prominent. Along with the likes of captain Ramona Petzelberger, already a veteran in the Frauen Bundesliga with SC 07 Bad Neuenahr, it seems the German talent production line is continuing to produce both quality and quantity.
“It tastes sweeter than my win in 2007 because when I started to coach I had two straight wins and I probably thought that I had to get to the final every year,” said Germany coach Maren Meinert. “Then we had four years without reaching the final and it was very important for us to win the title again. I think it's sweeter because I know how much hard work it is.”
With a number of young veterans already familiar with the rigours of competing on the world stage after the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad & Tobago, it seems experience will not be lacking for the Germans at Uzbekistan 2012. Qualification also means maintaining a proud record of not missing a U-20 women’s world tournament, with Germany having also been winners at Thailand 2004.
Trio rejoice in achievement
Switzerland will be making their third appearance at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, while Norway will feature for the second time. For 2011 qualifying tournament host nation Italy, it is the end of an eight-year drought from the world arena, having last featured at this level at Thailand 2004. The Azzurrine qualified in style by winning all three matches to top a group consisting of Switzerland, Russia and Belgium.
Perhaps the most keenly fought contest of the tournament was the goalless draw to conclude Group A, with the result providing ecstasy for Switzerland and heartbreak for Russia - host nation of the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. With Belgium a distant fourth, the result maintained Switzerland’s slim advantage over Russia on goal difference as the second qualifier from the group. Swiss goalkeeper Pascale Kuffer provided an insurmountable barrier throughout the match in a highlight of an impressive campaign from the 18-year-old shotstopper.