Fresh from their record 7-0 victory over Papua New Guinea, a Deyna Castellanos-inspired Venezuela team have already built up unstoppable momentum. In their second game on Sunday, the South Americans face European dark horses Slovakia knowing that a win would make them the first team through to the semi-finals. On the same day, Mexico must impress against Namibia following their loss against hosts China PR, as only victory will keep their semi-final hopes alive.
Venezuela – Slovakia, Wutaishan Stadium, Sunday 17 August, 18:00 (local time)
European contenders Slovakia will be looking to make a big splash in their first Youth Olympic Games. However, they kick off against a victorious Venezuela side bolstered by six veterans from the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Costa Rica back in April, so the Slovakians must get their tactics right.
Branislav Petrovic’s team are no pushovers, however, having routed Romania 7-2 and edged out Azerbaijan 1-0 in a four-country European qualifying tournament to earn their Olympic berth. If they play well on the day, the Slovakians’ height and physical strength may cancel out the South Americans’ potent attacking threat.
Venezuela coach Kenneth Zseremeta proved his tactical nous by guiding La Vinotinto to a top-four finish at this year's U-17 showpiece. In the opener here in Nanjing, the Panamanian supremo fielded five returnees from that successful campaign, who displayed plenty of confidence and composure to get the South Americans’ Olympic campaign off to a flyer.
Mexico – Namibia, Wutaishan Stadium, Sunday 17 August, 20:45 (local time)
One of the strongest teams in the CONCACAF Confederation, the Mexican girls lost their opener against China PR but left a deep impression with their ample stamina and unquenchable fighting spirit. Their starting lineup included defender Kimberley Rodriguez and fellow U-17 Women’s World Cup returnee Montserrat Hernandez, who was Las Tricolores’ most potent attacking threat against the hosts.
However, the Mexicans’ next opponents Namibia cannot be taken lightly. While possessing the same advantages of flexibility, speed and passion as their predecessors Equatorial Guinea, who caught the eye four years ago with some standout performances on the way to winning the silver medal, the southern African girls favour a more physical style.
In contrast to the last edition’s runners-up, Team Namibia was formed somewhat hastily, gleaned from the outstanding performers at the Girls’ National U-15 Championship which was held just two months ago. It therefore remains to be seen whether the Namibians’ lack of preparation will hinder their chances of reaching the last four.
3 – Apart from the hosts, Mexico are the only one of the six girls teams competing in Nanjing to have featured in all three of this year's FIFA-organized women's football events, namely the U-17 Women's World Cup in April, the ongoing U-20 Women's World Cup and the Youth Olympic Games.
The player to watch
Tamara Solarova (SVK)
At only 160 cm tall, the Slovakian goalkeeper will have her work cut out shielding the Europeans’ goal from Deyna Castellanos, who struck four goals in Venezuela's opening game. Solarova’s effectiveness in nullifying the threat posed by this year’s U-17 Women’s World Cup top scorer and defusing danger in front of goal may well be the key to Slovakia’s chances of getting a positive result.
Did you know?
Equatorial Guinean duo Felicidad Avomo and Judit Ndong were the joint-top scorers four years ago in Singapore with five goals apiece. However, the excellent early form shown by Venezuela sharpshooter Castellanos strongly suggests that their scoring record is likely to be broken.