Though Nigeria and Korea Republic would eventually go through from Group B of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012, neither side had it easy in what turned out to be a tight section comprising teams from four different confederations, each with different styles of play. Unlike the three other groups, only one of the six games could be described as one-sided, with the remaining five all proving close-fought affairs.
Playing an attacking game, the Nigerians, who finished runners-up at Germany 2010, showed no shortage of confidence and held the upper hand against their rivals, with the exception of Brazil. Meanwhile, the South Koreans also impressed with their tactical discipline and effective team play. The big disappointment were the Brazilians, who repeated their Germany 2010 performance by failing to reach the last eight. Despite finishing bottom with just one point, Italy showed that women’s football in the country is on the right track.
The group replayed
Nigeria took charge of the pool on the opening day, notching a 2-0 win over a Korea Republic side hampered by a first-half injury to striker Yeo Minji. At the same time Brazil scraped a draw against the Italians, who came agonisingly close to posting their maiden FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup win. The South Koreans recovered their poise by beating Italy on Matchday 2, while Brazil’s woes continued against the Falconets, another late goal rescuing them from defeat.
Though all four sides were in with a chance of qualifying on the final day, Nigeria put paid to Italy’s hopes with a commanding 4-0 victory. The South Koreans booked the other place following a gripping match with the Brazilians, who needed to win but had a goal disallowed in the first half before succumbing to two swift counter-attacks, both expertly rounded off by Jeoun Eunha.
Starting with a bang
Brazil’s opening match with Italy was lit up by two outstanding goals, the first of them scored by Le Azzurrine’s Elena Linari, who sent an exquisite free-kick into the top corner of Daniele. Amanda’s late equaliser was every bit as stunning. After lifting the ball over a defender, she controlled it on her chest and then cushioned a deft volley from a narrow angle over Giuliani and into the net.
Though they perhaps did not need any outside help, Nigeria had the backing of a vociferous band of 200 supporters in Saitama, helping the Falconets to feel right at home. The fans’ vocal demands for “more goals” were met by Edwin Okon’s team, who fielded as many as four players in attack and went ahead in each of their three games.
Getting the job done
Korea Republic turned in a ruthless display against Brazil in their crucial final game. Keeping their shape in midfield, Jong Songchon’s side blunted their less well-organised opponent’s attacks before killing them off in the final quarter of an hour with two quickfire breaks.
7 - The number of goals scored by two players in Group B, half the total scored in the section. Nigeria’s Francisca Ordega helped herself to four of them, including a hat-trick on the final matchday, with Korea Republic’s Eunha deputising admirably for fellow striker Minji by collecting three herself.
“Nothing has changed between 2010 and 2012, but the girls who took part two years ago have been training hard and have come on even more. We always aspire to be champions when we play in a World Cup. We came close in 2010 and our objective now is to reach the final again, this time with a different result,” Nigeria coach Okon Edwin.