For the third time at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, USA fell behind and for the third time they drew level. However, completing the comeback in the semi-final proved a step too far as Korea DPR secured a 2-1 extra-time victory in an at-times physical encounter.

While hopes of a record fourth world title at this level are now over, the Stars and Stripes are surely unsurpassed at Papua New Guinea 2016 for raw determination and sheer willpower. They came from behind to draw with Ghana in the group stage, and did so again to earn a memorable quarter-final victory over Mexico.

It is a view supported by USA goalscorer Natalie Jacobs. “That belief was still there until the last whistle, and no one gave up at any point,” Jacobs told FIFA.com. “We definitely showed it in the last game against Mexico, and definitely again in this game.

“We are obviously disappointed but we left everything out there on the field. We continued to put fight like we did in the last game. Each game (in the tournament) showed us something different with what we had to handle. We kept showing that fight in each game.”

Jacobs started the match in defence, but found herself pushed forward for the final minutes in an attempt to gain an equaliser. Equalise she did, and in impressive fashion too. Her hastily-taken cushioned volley exquisitely dipped over the goalkeeper for a much-celebrated equaliser. It seemed a remarkable finish for a defender, and though having come into the tournament ostensibly as a centre-back, Jacobs is in fact used as a striker for college side Notre Dame.

Jacobs’s artistry is not restricted to the football pitch. The 19-year-old plans on majoring in film, television and theatre, and lists painting, drawing and piano among her off-field pursuits. Her mother even won an Emmy as a news reporter.

Refocused energies
Now USA face a third-placed play-off in a rapidly-increasing women’s football rivalry with Japan. Being USA, there is no chance of a feeble showing in the early match on Saturday.

“There is a disappointing feeling now that we stand here empty-handed, but now we need to look ahead,” said USA coach Michelle French. “Our players must understand that the job has not yet been completed at this tournament. We must get up again and fight and aim to reach third place."

When asked about the play-off for third place, Jacobs backs her coach’s view unhesitatingly. “This match was a hard-fought battle from the very beginning, and we knew it was going to be. But we take the positives out of this game, the effort, the heart. And we will continue to take that forward. We still have another game to look forward to, and try and get that third place.”