“Korea DPR are the best team in the group.” That was Norway captain Kristine Wigdahl Hegland’s view, made in conversation with FIFA.com, before the kick-off in Group C of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012.
Hegland’s assessment proved to be spot on, as the North Koreans dominated the section, posting three wins out of three and racking up 15 goals in the process. Providing a stark contrast to that performance were Argentina, who finished way off the pace in fourth after three heavy defeats.
Sitting in between were Norway and Canada, with the Scandinavians clinching the second qualification slot thanks in the main to their defeat of the North Americans on Matchday 2.
The group replayed
The opening round of games set the tone for the pool. Despite twice being pegged back by Norway, the North Koreans eventually overpowered their opponents to run out 4-2 winners, while Canada’s meeting with Argentina produced six goals. Unfortunately for the Argentinians, they scored none of them, La Albiceleste failing to recover from conceding a penalty and having a player sent off in the opening minutes.
The Argentinians would fare even worse in their next outing against the rampant North Koreans, going down 9-0 and looking on helplessly as Kim Un Hwa became the second player in the history of the competition, after Canada’s Christine Sinclair in 2002, to score five goals in a single game. In the day’s other match the Canadians looked set to take a decisive step towards the quarter-finals only to let slip their half-time lead against Norway and go down 2-1, with sister act Ada and Andrine Hegerberg both scoring to give their side the edge in the race for second place. The Norwegians made no mistake in their final game against the luckless Argentinians, while Korea DPR made it three wins out of three to confirm Canada’s exit from the competition.
Torske rings the changes: Facing elimination at half-time in their match against Canada, Norway turned things around thanks to a courageous tactical switch by coach Jarl Torske, who brought on two attacking players for two defenders as they went in search of the win they needed. The versatility of skipper Hegland also proved useful as she vacated her customary position on the left wing and moved over to the right. Torske’s changes paid dividends as the Norwegians stormed back to earn an ultimately decisive 2-1 win.
Late consolation for Argentina: Trailing 2-0 to Norway in the closing minutes of their final game and long since out of the competition, the South Americans enjoyed a rare happy moment when Yael Oviedo found the back of the net for their first goal of the competition, prompting her team-mates to rush off the bench and celebrate the goal with her. Oviedo’ strike brought some welcome respite for a side that had conceded 17 goals in the competition up to that point and would let in two more in the final minutes.
Three and out for Leon: Adriana Leon needed just 24 first-half minutes to notch a hat-trick against Argentina in her side’s emphatic opening-day win. Coach Andrew Olivieri then subbed her at half-time in a bid to keep her fresh for the crucial games against Norway and Korea DPR, though there would be no more goals for Leon as the Canadians exited the competition at the first hurdle.
32 - The number of goals scored in the six matches in Group C, an average of 5.33 per game.
“This is my first World Cup and I was a little bit nervous to start with. I was wondering whether the highest level was going to be too tough for me. As soon as I got out on the pitch, though, I said to myself that it wasn’t so difficult and that I could do it,” Korea DPR striker Kim Un Hwa, the scorer of seven goals in three games so far.