September 30 - October 21
FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Jordan 2016™
adidas Golden Ball
FIFA Fair Play award
adidas Golden Glove
adidas Golden Boot
adidas Bronze Shoe
Asians excel as history is made in the Middle East
For Jordan 2016, a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar, the predictable and the historic, proved to be a winning blend.
The first major women's football competition in the Middle East broke new ground in so many respects, and yet the winners' podium was not among them. Asia's stranglehold there - the continent having produced all but one of the tournament's champions - was not so much maintained as tightened, with Japan and eventual winners Korea DPR a discernible cut above the rest.
Even Spain and Venezuela, both of whom made the top four for a second successive edition, could not compete, losing their respective semi-finals by identical three-goal margins. USA, Germany and Canada - all traditional giants of the senior women's game - also failed to make headway, with the North American duo failing to survive the group stage. African champions Nigeria fared worse still, heading for home without a single goal to show for their efforts. And the curse of the hosts continued, with Jordan the fifth in as many editions to fall at the first hurdle - and the third in succession to lose all three of their matches.
Stars and moments of magic Overall, this was the lowest-scoring FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup so far and yet, as its enthralling but goalless final proved, the quality has never been higher. No-one did more to raise the bar than the Japanese and North Koreans, and while the latter claimed gold thanks to a nerveless and near flawless penalty shootout showing, either would have been worthy champions.
The Korea DPR coach graciously acknowledged as much after seeing the Young Chollima, champions in 2008, become the first team to win this trophy on multiple occasions. "Japan's technical level is higher than ours, I admit that, and they missed some golden opportunities," said Sin Jong-Bok, who credited his side's win to "mental strength".
These were not empty words. When Sin and his players formed an impromptu guard of honour to applaud the Japanese - a gesture typical of the sportsmanship on show in Jordan - they did so to recognise a team who, in many respects, continue to set the standard at this level.
The Little Nadeshiko's slick, stylish performances did not go entirely unrewarded, though, as playmaker and captain Fuka Nagano - the youngest member of their title-winning 2014 team - was named Jordan 2016's outstanding player. The adidas Golden Ball winner was just one of several individual success stories, with the likes of Ri Hae-Yon, Riko Ueki, Laia Aleixandri, Giulia Gwinn, Sung Hyang-Sim, Jacqueline Ovalle and Sandra Owusu-Ansah also emerging as players well worth watching.
And then there was Deyna Castellanos. Although the Venezuela No9, beset in the latter stages by niggling injuries and the tightest of marking, missed out on the top awards, she undoubtedly produced some of the tournament's most memorable moments. Who can forget, for example, her audacious last-gasp halfway-line winner against Cameroon, or the sublime turn and unstoppable finish that brought La Vinotinto victory against Canada? After a Golden Boot-winning campaign at the age of 15 in Costa Rica two years ago, Castellanos certainly cemented her reputation as a superstar-in-the-making.
A lasting legacy While developing this next generation of outstanding female footballers might be seen as this tournament's central purpose, Jordan 2016 had even grander ambitions. The host country's monarch, Her Majesty Queen Rania, expressed these before a ball was even kicked, stating her belief that football could help "change attitudes and perceptions as to how society perceives girls and young women". Samar Nassar, CEO of a 75 per cent-female Local Organising Committee, went further still, saying that the competition's players were "not just kicking the ball for themselves or their countries, but for all girls out there - for women’s empowerment and for promoting gender equality.”
The desire to further such causes and leave a long-term legacy in the region undoubtedly underpinned FIFA's desire to bring the U-17 Women's World Cup to Jordan, and that remained evident throughout the competition. A string of courses, seminars and other events were held to promote and encourage female footballers, coaches and referees, and support was also given to children in Jordan's refugee camps. No fewer than 250 of those youngsters attended the hosts' opening match, and one of them, Laila, emerged from the experience saying that she too wanted to become a footballer and one day captain her country.
Whether she will succeed, only time will tell. But the mere fact that such dreams have even been stirred in a refugee girl from the Middle East suggests that Jordan 2016 succeeded not only to excite, but to inspire.
16 stars from 2016's youth tournaments
30 Dec 2016
Jordan 2016 : Awards winners
21 Oct 2016
Korea DPR 0-0 Japan, 5-4 PSO (Jordan 2016 Final)
21 Oct 2016
Venezuela 0-4 Spain (Jordan 2016)
21 Oct 2016
Jordan 2016 in ten moments
20 Oct 2016