U-20 showpiece comes full circle

It is hard not to contemplate the future when thinking of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014, especially with the tournament providing a career springboard for a host of young players and especially with the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ coming into view.

With the latest U-20 Women’s World Cup just about to start, however, FIFA.com takes the opportunity to look back at five highlights from the exciting 12-year history of the competition, which is all set to return to the country where it was staged for the very first time in 2002.

Canada 2002: Introducing Christine Sinclair * *A crowd of 47,784 turned up to see USA beat Canada in the final of the inaugural competition, which was known at the time as the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. The host nation’s cloud had a silver lining, however, with Christine Sinclair announcing herself to the world with some superb performances. The forward, who has since gone on to become one of the greatest players in the women’s game, has chalked up a string of records in her glittering career, the first of them coming in the quarter-finals of Canada 2002 against England, when she struck five goals to fire the hosts to a 6-2 win. She helped herself to five more to win the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player and the adidas Golden Boot as its top scorer.

Thailand 2004: Germany in a league of their ownGermany highlighted their unquestioned status as one of the powerhouses of women’s football by winning their maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup title in 2003, an achievement that the U-20 side followed up a year later by winning Thailand 2004 in spectacular style, scoring 19 goals in six games, including two without reply in the final against China PR. Ten of those goals came in their opening two group games against Thailand and Australia, which ended in respective 6-0 and 4-0 wins. The Germans were nevertheless given a fright in their next outing, against Canada, one of the matches of the tournament. After surging into a 3-0 lead in just 37 minutes, they saw the Canucks fight back for a point with goals from Kara Lang, Veronique Maranda and Brittany Timko.

Russia 2006: Asian dominationKorea DPR made a dream debut appearance as the tournament – now open to 16 teams instead of 12 – changed its name to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship. The North Koreans made their intentions clear in their opening game, beating reigning champions Germany 2-0. A competition dominated by the AFC sides ended with Korea DPR overwhelming China PR in the final. Consolation for the Chinese came in the form of individual success for their star act Ma Xiaoxu, who walked away with the adidas Golden Ball and the adidas Golden Boot.

Germany 2010: Hosts too hot to handleThough Canada came close in 2002, none of the tournament’s first four host nations managed to win the title. Germany set that record straight in 2010, achieving something beyond the reach of the Canadians, Thailand, Russia and Chile before them. The main architect of their win on home soil was striker Alexandra Popp, who showcased her all-round skills and struck ten goals into the bargain, more than enough to land her the top scorer and best player awards. Not surprisingly, Popp has since gone on to become an integral part of the full national team.

Japan 2012: Ohai undoes GermanyIn Japan two years later Germany scored 15 goals, conceded one, had the best player of the tournament in their ranks in Dzsenifer Marozsan and the best goalkeeper in Laura Benkarth. Given that information you could be forgiven for assuming that the Germans retained their title in style. The only thing was that the one goal they let in – scored by USA’s Kealia Ohai – was the solitary goal of the final, and allowed the Americans to chalk up a third U-20 Women’s World Cup title to go with the ones they won in 2002 and 2008. As the holders, they will be the team to beat when the tournament goes back to its roots in Canada in a few days’ time.