The emotional temperature has been running at fever pitch in Chile for nearly three weeks now. An enraptured nation has followed the action at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2008, as 16 teams and fans in their tens of thousands have turned the tournament into an outstanding success.
The day of reckoning finally arrives on Sunday with the final in La Florida/Santiago. Holders Korea DPR and 2002 winners USA have emerged as the best of a very good bunch, and now do battle for the title. The two nations met in the final of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup just one month ago in New Zealand, where the Asians edged to a narrow victory. That Korean triumph adds even more spice to Sunday’s clash, as the young Americans are bent on taking the trophy home this time.
Immediately prior to the Final, the third-place play-off features two European nations who arrived in Chile with contrasting expectations, namely Germany and France. FIFA.com looks ahead to the tournament’s final day.
Korea DPR - USA, La Florida/Santiago, 7 December, 6.30 pm (local)
Can the US ensemble under seasoned boss Tony DiCicco break the North Koreans’ current stranglehold on women’s junior football? Or will the Asian cracks add a third successive FIFA Women’s World Cup triumph to the Russia 2006 crown and the U-17 event a few weeks ago, cementing their status as the global gold standard? That is the fundamental issue at stake in the final. Both teams are fallible, as evidenced by a defeat each at the group stage, but both have also played with discipline, tactical nous and efficiency in front of goal. Both sides deserve a tilt at the ultimate prize.
Sunday’s showdown pits the most prolific attack against the meanest defence: Korea DPR have netted 14 times so far, but USA have conceded only twice (China also had only two goals against but exited at the group stage). Two of the tournament’s most potent strikers also go head-to-head: Sydney Leroux and Ri Ye Gyong have four goals apiece, level at the top of the scoring charts with French markswoman Eugenie Le Sommer. Incredibly, it is the first-ever meeting between USA and Korea DPR at U-20 level in a FIFA women’s tournament. A curious tradition may be maintained: the eventual winners have kept a clean sheet in the last three finals at the tournament.
France - Germany, La Florida/Santiago, 7 December, 3.30 pm (local)
The disappointed meet the disconsolate in the match for third place. The neighbouring European countries both fell narrowly in the semi-finals, with North Korea’s stoppage-time winner in the 2-1 victory over France an especially cruel blow for the Bleuettes. Both teams will be hoping to pick themselves up and round off creditable showings at the tournament with a victory. That would represent a minor consolation for the Germans, who arrived in Chile with serious trophy ambitions, but would be the icing on the cake for surprise package France after their first-ever appearance in the last four.
The nations have met just once previously at this level in a FIFA women’s event, a group stage meeting in Canada six years ago which ended 2-0 to Germany. Should Maren Meinert’s team repeat that success, Germany will have finished third at all three FIFA women’s tournaments this year, the Olympics, the U-17 and the U-20 events.
The numbers game
1 - If Korea DPR successfully defend the U-20 crown, they would become the first nation to take home two FIFA women’s trophies in the same year.
"Based on my girls’ terrific performances at the tournament, they deserve a place on the podium. We’ll put a lot of effort into the match for third place."Stéphane Pilard, France coach