THE DAY REPLAYED: China PR won the gold medal at the Girls’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament Nanjing 2014, romping to a clear victory over Venezuela in a fascinating encounter. In the match for third place, Mexico overcame Slovakia after 80 dramatic minutes to ensure they travel home with the bronze medal.
Match for third place
Mexico 3-1 Slovakia (2-0)
The young Mexicans’ joy was clear to see as the final whistle sounded. Making it to the bottom step of the podium marks the best-ever finish for Mexico at a FIFA women’s tournament. Draped in their national flag, coach Monica Vergara’s charges embarked on a lap of honour around the arena in a high-spirited celebration of their bronze medal reflecting just how hard they had to work for the result. Although the CONCACAF representatives took a comfortable 2-0 lead within just fifteen minutes thanks to an own goal from Andrea Herbrikova and a remarkable long-range strike from Montserrat Hernandez, the Slovakians refused to give up and turned up the heat considerably in the second half.
Shortly after the change of ends, the Europeans got a goal back after Diana Anguiano turned the ball into her own net. Substitute Daniela Garcia then missed several good opportunities to re-establish Mexico’s two-goal buffer. In a spectacular final few minutes, Slovakia threw everything forward and were unlucky when Martina Surnovska’s free-kick only managed to strike the crossbar. Lenka Kopcova then missed a further effort from a promising position. Finally, Garcia wrapped up a 3-1 win for the North Americans from a Mexican counterattack, heading Hernandez’s cross home with one minute of the match remaining.
The hosts’ resounding victory against Venezuela marked a historic triumph as they became the first Chinese team to win any FIFA tournament. The young Asian side showed great determination as they stormed to their much-craved gold medal. To the jubilation of the crowd, Wan Wenting opened the scoring with a stunning header in the tenth minute before Xie Qiwen doubled China’s lead with another headed effort. In the minutes that followed, the home side launched attack after attack on the Venezuelan goal, with Wang Yanwen only narrowly missing from outside the penalty area. Ma Xiaolan then showed greater precision shortly before the break by sending a finely crafted shot into the far corner.
At the start of the second half, another effort from Ma Xiaolan rattled the crossbar just moments before Zhang Jiaxun added China’s fourth goal. Although Venezuela’s attacking prowess was largely lacking, star striker Deyna Castellanos had one notable goalscoring chance saved by Xu Huan in the Chinese goal after 57 minutes. Substitute Wu Xi added the cherry on the cake for the hosts with a shot that slipped through the fingers of Venezuelan keeper Nayluisa Caceres.
Slovakia foiled by the woodwork
In football, the difference between joy and despair is often a matter of mere centimetres – something the Slovakians know better than most. After the prolific Martina Surnovska’s powerful 20-metre free-kick was denied by the crossbar, Lenka Kopcova found herself unmarked in front of goal with the ball at her feet but could only shoot over the bar. Lenka then found the woodwork for herself during injury time. Although coach Branislav Petrovic was as disappointed as his players with the outcome of the match, he has every reason to be proud of their displays in Nanjing. The European side performed extremely well and won over fans with their passion and love of the game during their country’s first appearance at the finals of a FIFA women’s tournament.
A record-breaking setting
The biggest matches deserve to be played on a big stage, and this is just what the players at Wutaishan Stadium got as they contested their decisive games in front of a record crowd. Believe it or not, 11,678 spectators packed out the arena, ensuring a deafening din and an unforgettable atmosphere. The Chinese team soaked up this remarkable mood after the final whistle and earned further ovations for their impromptu dancing.
An ardent ambassador
Among the excited spectators was one of women’s football’s biggest names; Sun Wen, ambassador and role model athlete for the Youth Olympic Games 2014. China’s former star striker, who featured at four FIFA Women’s World Cups and won a silver medal at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in 1996, summed up her country’s performance happily by saying: “This Chinese team played very strongly. I hope these young players can continue to progress on the international stage.”
56 – The Girls’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament 2014 was a thrilling display of attacking football. A total of 56 goals were scored in the competition’s 11 matches, making an average of more than five goals per game. By comparison, the ball nestled in the back of the net only 36 times in Singapore four years ago.
Boys’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament Nanjing 2014
Play-off for third place
Cape Verde Islands – Iceland, Jiangning Sports Centre Stadium, Wednesday 27 August, 18:00 local time
Peru – Korea Republic, Jiangning Sports Centre Stadium, Wednesday 27 August, 20:45 local time