Pivotal outings as vanquished face abyss
© Getty Images

With the intense series of opening encounters now consigned to the past, Matchday 3 of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014 will see sides that are greatly experienced at this level go head-to-head in what are sure to be tight, high-quality affairs. Furthermore, the teams that lost their opening fixture will need to do everything in their power to avoid an early exit.

Match of the day
Korea DPR-Canada, 18 March 2014, Estadio Edgardo Baltodano Briceno, Liberia, 20.00 (local time)
Given the two nations’ pedigree, with neither of them having ever failed to qualify and Canada having twice reached the quarter-finals, the likelihood of this Group B clash being closely contested is high. Korea DPR lifted the prestigious trophy in 2008 and remain the only country to have appeared in two finals.

While the Canadians can look back with pride at scoring the tournament’s first-ever goal, the North Koreans hold the record for the largest win, a remarkable 11-0 victory over Gambia in 2012.

The match provides an opportunity for both teams to bounce back from opening-day setbacks; Canada threw away a two-goal lead to draw with Germany, while their Asian opponents were soundly beaten by Ghana (0-2).

The other matches
Ghana and Germany lock horns in Group B’s other game, with the Black Maidens keen to repeat their fine showing at Azerbaijan 2012, where they became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

Having secured a relatively comfortable three points on Saturday, the Ghanaians certainly appear on track to emulate their third-place finish from two years ago.

After scoring twice in three minutes to draw level with Canada, meanwhile, the Germans know they will have to show more defensive solidity if they are to not only justify their status of favourites but also avoid being knocked out at the group stage for the first time in their history.

In Group A, Costa Rica face Italy, who previously defeated Zambia 2-0 in their U-17 Women’s World Cup debut. The hosts, who will be backed by a loyal and hopeful home support, are now in desperate need of three points, following their resounding 3-0 reverse at the hands of Venezuela.

The Venezuelans, for their part, will go into their fixture with Zambia as favourites, due to the Africans’ disappointing display against Italy and the attacking prowess exhibited by the South Americans so far. A win for La Vinotinto will see them progress to the knockout stage for the first time if Italy can beat Costa Rica in the evening match.

Player to watch
Judging by the brace she bagged against Costa Rica on Saturday, Deyna Castellanos is not one to be affected by partisan crowds. The Venezuelan forward scored twice in the second half to get her nation’s 2014 campaign off to a tremendous start.

The stat
4 – Tuesday’s record-breaking match between Ghana and Germany will mark the fourth time that the two nations have played each other at the U-17 Women’s World Cup. The current European champions have certainly had the better of the encounters overall, boasting two triumphs, but the Africans emerged victorious the last time they faced off, in the match for third place at Azerbaijan 2012.

The words
“When it comes to tactics and starting line-ups, I’m more of a conservative coach. You have to be careful when you make changes because sometimes the players have trouble adapting. After watching them against Italy, I suspect that Zambia could cause us problems. Once more, we’ll need to give our all,”   Venezuela coach Kenneth Zseremeta.

Fixtures (all local time)
Group A:
Venezuela-Zambia (Estadio Nacional, San Jose, 17.00)
Costa Rica-Italy (Estadio Nacional, San Jose, 20.00)

Group B:
Ghana-Germany (Estadio Edgardo Baltodano Briceno, Liberia, 17.00)
Korea DPR-Canada (Estadio Edgardo Baltodano Briceno, Liberia, 20.00)