Every football player dreams of running out at a FIFA World Cup™ competition, an hour that is nevertheless afforded to only a chosen few.
Every team that takes part in a major international competition has their own objectives, whether it is just progressing beyond the first round, reaching the semi-finals or winning the title outright. When it comes to the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup competitions, however, another factor comes into play: the chance for the youngsters representing their countries to make a name for themselves and get noticed.
The likes of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Toni Kroos and Iker Casillas have all achieved that goal, while the women’s game is not to be outdone, with Marta, a five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, and Nadine Kessler, the accolade’s 2014 winner, both breaking through at junior world finals competitions.
Anxious to promote the women’s game, FIFA launched the Women’s World Cup in 1991. It was joined in 2002 by the U-20 Women’s World Cup, which has now been staged seven times, with the U-17 Women’s World Cup coming into existence six years later. Held on four occasions since then, the newest of the three competitions is a showcase for the exciting young players who will be leading their countries’ U-20 and senior teams in the years that follow.
With preparations now underway for the fifth U-17 Women’s World Cup, to be held in Jordan in 2016, FIFA.com looks back through the short history of the tournament and recalls some of the great players who have graced it and collected individual awards such as the adidas Golden Ball.
Hitting the heights
The list is long, and it starts with Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi, who starred at New Zealand 2008 and walked away with the adidas Golden Ball. The Japanese starlet went on to appear at the Women’s U-20 World Cup in 2010 and then pitched up at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011, where she played in five matches in Japan’s memorable run to the world title.
Germany forward Dzsenifer Marozsan collected the adidas Silver Ball and the adidas Golden Boot at that inaugural women’s U-17 world finals, and it was no surprise to see her form part of the U-20 side that went on to win the world title in that age group in 2010. Marozsan was back in the U-20 final two years later, and though her side could not repeat their 2010 triumph, she had the consolation of making off with the adidas Golden Ball again. Having appeared in all ten of Germany’s qualifying matches and scored eight goals in the process, the prolific Marozsan can expect a place at the biggest tournament in women’s football in Canada this coming summer.
New Zealand 2008 also saw the emergence of Korea DPR’s Jon Myong-Hwa, who struck four goals to help the Asians take the title and who also made off with the adidas Bronze Boot. As well as running out at the next two Women’s U-20 World Cups, she also appeared at Germany 2011.
Korea Republic’s Yeo Minji was the star of the show at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, inspiring her team to the title and collecting the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot, thanks to her haul of eight goals. The striker will be out to make an equally telling contribution at Canada 2015.
Kumi Yokoyama was rewarded for her efforts in steering Japan to the final of that competition, making off with the adidas Silver Ball and Bronze Boot. Two years later she formed part of the Young Nadeshiko side that finished third at the Women’s U-20 World Cup.
Azerbaijan 2012 was the stage for a talented new generation to announce themselves to the world, one led by the imposing centre-half Griedge Mbock Bathy, who played a big hand in France’s victorious campaign and deservedly won the adidas Golden Ball. She was in among the individual awards again at the Women’s U-20 World Cup two years later, picking up the adidas Silver Ball after helping the girls in blue to third place. There is no doubt that the big French stopper will be one to watch in Canada this summer.
The winner of the adidas Golden Boot in Azerbaijan was Korea DPR’s Ri Un-Sim, who, like Mbock Bathy, was in action at last year’s U-20 world finals in Canada.
Nigerian duo Chinwendu Ihezuo and Halimatu Ayinde made off with the adidas Silver Boot and Bronze Boot respectively in 2012. Ayinde was a veteran of the 2010 edition, while Ihezuo returned to the competition at Costa Rica 2014, with both appearing in the Nigeria side that finished second at Canada 2014.
Costa Rica 2014 saw Japan’s Hina Sugita return to the competition, having also graced Azerbaijan 2012, and it was her inspirational presence that took the Asian side to the title. As well as a winner’s medal, Sugita also went home with the adidas Golden Ball and Bronze Ball, while compatriot Yui Hasegawa, another veteran of the previous edition, was awarded the Silver Ball.
Venezuelan strike duo Deyna Castellanos and Gabriela Garcia propelled their country to fourth place behind the Japanese, each scoring six goals and conjuring up three assists apiece to share the adidas Golden Boot, a first in the history of the competition. Castellanos’ achievement was made all the more remarkable by the fact that she was only 14 at the time.
Preparations for Jordan 2016 are in full swing, as teams ready themselves for the qualifiers and the teenage talents of the women’s game look ahead to the opportunity to show the world what they can do.