Had Korea DPR not lost to France, on penalties, in the final of Azerbaijan 2012, the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup would be the sole preserve of Asian sides. The North Koreans won the inaugural competition in New Zealand in 2008, while Korea Republic took the honours at Trinidad and Tobago 2010 and Japan lifted the trophy at Costa Rica 2014. Asia’s domination of the competition is set to continue at Jordan 2016, where the Japanese will defend their title in the final against a Korea DPR side intent on winning it back.
Prior to the tournament’s all-Asian finale, losing semi-finalists Spain and Venezuela will fight it out for a prestigious consolation prize in the match for third place.
FIFA.com sets the scene for the last day of a competition that will see one Asian representative hoist the trophy aloft and one Latin side depart with smiles on their faces.
Korea DPR-Japan, Amman International Stadium, 21 October, 20.00 (local time)
Everyone agrees that Japan are an irresistible force, as they have shown in stringing together 11 consecutive U-17 Women's World Cup wins since their opening match in Costa Rica two years ago. Yet while the Japanese are the reigning world champions, it should not be forgotten that they are not the continental title holders, having lost to Korea DPR in the final of the 2015 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship, which doubled up as the qualifying competition for Jordan 2016.
The North Koreans have not been quite as impressive as the Japanese en route to the final, kicking off with a draw against England before scraping a win against Brazil. Emerging as group winners, however, the Young Chollima then showed their resolve in a tough quarter-final against Ghana, a game they won with a goal deep into stoppage time. Having survived that test, they then showed they were capable of doing whatever Japan could do, beating Venezuela every bit as emphatically as the Little Nadeshiko did Spain. All in all, this potentially exciting final looks too close to call.
The match for third place
Venezuela-Spain, Amman International Stadium, 21 October, 17.00 (local time)
While Spain have fallen short of the second place they achieved at Costa Rica 2014, Venezuela have already made sure of doing just as well as they did two years ago, when they finished fourth. La Vinotinto’s aim now is to come away with their best ever placing in a world finals. As for La Rojita, they are targeting a place on the podium as reward for all their efforts in Jordan: “We’re among the best four teams in the world,” said Spain coach Maria Is. “We’ve got one game left. It’s winner takes all, and we want to win so that the girls get properly rewarded for the work they’ve put in here.”
The match could well decide who wins the adidas Golden Boot, awarded to the tournament’s highest goalscorer. Venezuela’s Deyna Castellanos and Spain’s Lorena Navarro currently lead the way with five goals, along with Korea DPR’s Ri Hae-Yon.
Player to watch
Riko Ueki (Japan)
The scorer of four goals in as many games, three of which have ended with her receiving the Live Your Goals Player of the Match award, Riko Ueki could be regarded as the outstanding player in an ultra-consistent Japan side that always performs to a high standard, no matter who is on the pitch. Coach Naoki Kusunose left Ueki on the bench for the semi-final, however, explaining afterwards that he sent out the players who he felt were in the best shape. His decision did not stop the Japanese from recording a 3-0 win, in which the absence of their top scorer went unnoticed. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine Kusunose sidelining his chief attacking threat for the tournament decider.
1 - the number of FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup finals that have been decided in normal time: Japan’s 2-0 defeat of Spain two years ago. Korea DPR won the inaugural crown in 2008 in extra time but lost on penalties in 2012, while Japan went down in a shootout in 2010. As that statistic shows, the competition’s finals are usually close-fought affairs. There will be no extra time on this occasion, however, with the tournament regulations stating that the final will go straight to penalties if the scores are level at the end of normal time.
"The players were tense [in the semi-final win over Venezuela] and I have to focus on what we can do better in the final. In terms of our opponents, Japan were my preference [over Spain]. We know what to expect from the Japanese, having played them at AFC U-16 Championship."
Sin Jong-Bok, Korea DPR coach