Over the past 11 days, the Cayman Islands have seen the best and brightest young talent from around the CONCACAF zone challenging for three spots at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014.
USA and Mexico claimed the first two berths on Friday and were joined last night by Costa Rica, who triumphed 7-3 over Trinidad and Tobago in a thrilling third-place play-off. The US, meanwhile, retained the continental title by beating Mexico 4-0 in the final.
FIFA.com reviews the action.
USA, Mexico dominate group phase
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica and USA contested Group A, and the tone was set on matchday one when the Stars and Stripes put six past Las Ticas to take an early lead in the section. Costa Rica were the next side to display their offensive prowess with a 5-1 win over Guatemala, though USA kept pace with a 3-0 victory over Jamaica, securing a spot in the semi-finals with one group stage match to spare.
Costa Rica, Guatemala and Jamaica were all in the hunt for the second semi-final berth on the last day of group play and suspense was high after Jamaica and Costa Rica battled to a 1-1 draw, meaning Guatemala had a chance to sneak through on goal difference - albeit by causing an upset against USA. The Americans were too strong, though, and claimed top spot with a 10-0 win, with Costa Rica scraping home in second with four points.
Group B was more straightforward as Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago dominated a section that also included Honduras and tournament hosts Cayman Islands.
El Tri scored 16 goals in their first two matches, winning 6-0 against Cayman Islands and 10-1 against Honduras, while Trinidad and Tobago saw off Honduras 2-0 and the hosts 4-0, leaving the two undefeated sides to play off for top spot. T&T held firm for the first 30 minutes but Mexico pulled ahead in the 33rd minute and never looked back en route to a 3-0 win.
Qualifying spots decided
With a spot at Canada 2014 up for grabs for the winner of each semi-final, all four teams came out fighting but it was USA and Mexico, the two traditional powerhouses, who again prevailed.
Costa Rica opened the scoring against in the 17th minute against Mexico through Jazmin Villalobos, but parity was restored 15 minutes later. Fabiola Ibarra’s second-half free kick then put El Tri ahead before Jessica Valadez sealed a 3-1 victory.
USA, for their part, scored early and often in their 6-0 rout of Trinidad and Tobago to reach the final. McKenzie Meehan and Stephanie Amack both scored twice as the Americans continued their impressive unbeaten run through the tournament.
With the first two berths at Canada 2014 now decided, a third-place match between Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago was needed to determine the third. And what a game it was.
Trinidad and Tobago went ahead 2-0 early on and looked to be in control, but Costa Rica managed to pull one back through Daphe Monge in the 34th minute. Indeed, while T&T re-established their two-goal lead just before the break through Khadisha Debesette, Las Ticas continually fought back and found another two goals to level the match at 3-3 and force extra time.
By this point, momentum had swung decisively in the favour of the Central Americans, who fired in four goals over the ensuing 30 minutes to win 7-3 and secure the final qualifying spot.
USA remain unbeaten
In the final, Andi Sullivan put USA ahead as early as the ninth minute, giving every indication that the Americans would again be scoring at will. However, Mexico held strong and kept the game close for nearly an hour until the US doubled their lead through Savannah Jordan.
The holders scored again in the 68th minute and Mexico conceded an unfortunate own-goal three minutes into second-half stoppage time to seal a 4-0 victory. The victory secured a third consecutive and fourth overall CONCACAF U-20 Women’s championship for USA. Having gone unbeaten throughout the entire competition – not to mention the previous two editions – the Stars and Stripes are now undefeated in 15 qualifying matches.
USA, Mexico, Costa Rica and hosts Canada will now begin stepping up their preparations for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, which takes place between 5 and 24 August.