It is a scene that never loses its impact no matter how many times it is repeated: a final whistle sounding and the losing players slumping to the ground in tears. Usually the victors will quickly offer some consoling words, though nothing can compensate for the harsh reality of having to go back to your hotel, pack your bags and head home early.
Over the last two days at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010, that scene has been played out on four occasions, with the quarter-finals resulting in painful exits for Brazil and Nigeria - the last remaining representatives of South America and Africa respectively - and the European twosome of Germany and Republic of Ireland.
Click on the links on the right for full details on all the matches.
Yet, as hard as it is to take, defeat also brings with it an opportunity to take stock and draw positive conclusions for the future, as Nigeria star Francisca Ordega explained: “I’m very sad right now, but I know I’ll be feeling fine when the pain subsides. Not everyone has the chance to take part in a World Cup and it’s something we should feel proud of. It’s no mean achievement to reach the last eight, although it would have been nice to go a little farther.”
It’s been a learning experience for us, not a failure.
Though the sorrow felt by Ordega and her team-mates was palpable, it paled in comparison to the dejection experienced by Germany when a solitary Korea DPR goal shattered their hopes. Utterly dominant in the group phase, the red-hot tournament favourites were unprepared for a tearful early exit, and could barely express their desolation as they left the Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella on Thursday evening.
“We didn’t play badly but things didn’t work out for us,” said forward Lena Petermann, clearly numbed by her side’s narrow defeat. “It’s an experience that will help us grow,” she added, without a great deal of conviction. “I suppose we will learn from this experience and it will help us grow,” said Brazil striker Glaucia, taking her cue from her German counterpart after A Canarinha’s 2-1 loss to Spain, her barely audible voice betraying her disappointment.
Accentuating the positive All four ties were keenly contested, each of them yielding a one-goal margin of victory. That allowed the losing coaches to look on the bright side. “This is our second U-17 World Cup finals appearance and the team got past the group phase this time, which is an improvement,” said Brazil boss Edvaldo Erlacher. “These girls have got an awful lot going for them. I feel very proud of them and I want to congratulate them on all they’ve done.”
His Irish opposite number, Noel King, was equally admiring of his charges’ effort: “I’m so proud of these girls that I can’t put it into words. They are the best group of players I’ve ever worked with and they now know what it means to compete against the best players in the world. It’s been an amazing experience for all of them to come up against teams from different cultures. We’ve done Ireland proud and though the dream is over now, we’ve achieved a lot.”
“It’s been a learning experience for us, not a failure,” continued Erlacher. “We might have lost but we played well and gave a good performance against a great side. They’ll be going away with something very important from this and it’s an excellent lesson for these young players, who have represented Brazil wonderfully well here and will do so again in the future.”
The final word goes to Nigeria’s Ordega, whose admirable optimism is founded on her belief that the Flamingoes’ T&T adventure will lead to bigger things: “Our next objective is to keep working hard and to make the U-20 team and, why not, the full national team. This tournament has been the first step in making that possible, and although it won’t come easily because things are tough in my country, anything is possible as long as we have faith and work hard.”