USA's 1-0 win over Germany in the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on 8 September in Tokyo, their third such success in six editions of the prestigious competition, was a victory founded on fine teamwork.
Prior to the curtain falling on the 2012 event, the attention turned from team triumphs to individual accolades, a host of which were handed out to deserving winners.
Before the start of the tournament, Dzsenifer Marozsan was talked about as a potential star for Germany, and she did not disappoint, propelling her side to great heights with an array of valuable assists and inspirational instances of brilliance.
From remarkable players to prolific scorers and outstanding goalkeepers, without forgetting the FIFA Fair Play award, FIFA.com turns the spotlight on the individual prizes and their talented recipients.
Dzsenifer Marozsan: Winning the Player of the Tournament trophy is likely to be a source of great satisfaction for the young German, and it will doubtless also make up for missing out on the same award at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, where the attack-minded performer, who managed to pick up the Golden Shoe award in New Zealand, finished second in the voting behind Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi.
Although she only found the net on one occasion this time around, she paved the way to the final for her team-mates by setting them up for several crucial goals. Her six accurate assists, from a combination of set-pieces, crosses and through balls, as well as her moments of great individual skill, not only won over the fans at Japan 2012, but also the experts that make up FIFA's Technical Study Group, who awarded her the adidas Golden Ball.
Hanae Shibata: Japan had supporters on the edge of their seats throughout the tournament, their collective approach causing constant chaos in opposition defences. For that, they required a dynamo in the middle of the park, a role which Hanae Shibata fulfilled to perfection, running tirelessly from box to box.
Always available to help out with defensive duties, she was also invariably the first to relaunch an attack for the Nadeshiko. In addition, she showed that she has an eye for goal when opportunity presents itself, scoring three times and showcasing her speed, technique and composure in the process.
Julie Johnston: Originally a midfielder, the American was the lynchpin of the defence which emerged unblemished from the final against Germany. Her cool head and tremendous leadership qualities saw USA coach Steve Swanson hand her the captain’s armband, and she did not let him down, exhibiting a huge influence in the dressing room and inspiring her team-mates with well-chosen words of encouragement.
She ensured that the Stars and Stripes' heads did not go down at key moments, such as during their resounding 3-0 group-stage defeat by the Germans, or after Korea DPR’s equaliser during the quarter-final. Her visible ease on the ball, excellent positioning and ability to relaunch play from the back all contributed to the Americans' third FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup triumph.
Kim Un-Hwa: The Korea DPR forward only played in four matches at Japan 2012, appearing on the pitch for just 309 minutes, but that did not prevent her from hitting the back of the net no fewer than seven times.
She was not even considered part of her nation’s starting XI at the outset of the competition, the first of her career in any age category, but her performance and goal in the 4-2 win over Norway saw her convince national coach Sin Ui-Gun to field her from the start against Argentina. It proved to be an inspired choice, as the diminutive attacker put in an immense display, scoring five goals in a stunning 9-0 victory.
She followed this up with an equaliser in the subsequent 2-1 defeat of Canada, a result which guaranteed the North Koreans top spot in their group. In the quarter-final loss to USA, she was unable to repeat her earlier scoring feats, but nevertheless left a mark on the event despite her country’s premature elimination.
adidas Golden Glove: Laura Benkarth (Germany)
The last line of defence of a German side that conceded a truly remarkable total of one solitary goal throughout the event, Laura Benkarth found herself with considerably less work to do than some of her less well-supported counterparts.
But the mark of a great goalkeeper is performing when called upon, and Benkarth was able to remain fully focused until the last minute of every encounter, pulling off reflex saves and claiming the ball safely whenever necessary.
The goalkeeper was not averse to throwing herself in harm’s way for the sake of her team either, as demonstrated by her heavy collision with Caroline Hansen in the quarter-final clash with Norway. After five impressive clean sheets in a row, Kealia Ohai’s winning goal for USA in the final forced the Germany No1 to pick the ball out of the net for the very first time.
That strike signified that Benkarth would not equal the glorious performance of Nadine Angerer, who did not concede a single goal at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, but the Golden Glove award should more than compensate for that particular disappointment.
FIFA Fair Play award: Japan
As well as securing a creditable third place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012, the host nation had the satisfaction of rounding off the tournament by receiving the prize that recognises fair play and exemplary behaviour, both on and off the pitch.
The destination of this award is decided by an evaluation carried out by FIFA’s Technical Study Group, which attributes points related to fair play, based on teams' overall behaviour. The goal of the prize is to highlight the concept of working together as a team, be it among the players, coaching staff or fans.
This year, while Japan have their 21 players to thank for the distinction, they can rightly share it with the entire population, who delighted the 15 other competing teams with their friendliness, warm welcome and flawless organisation, a remarkable achievement given the terrible natural disasters that struck the country a little over a year ago.