A fantastic atmosphere, record attendance figures, plenty of surprises and the emergence of African and South American teams were just some of the reasons why the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Germany 2010 will go down in the history books as a resounding success. The hosts put their own stamp on the tournament by celebrating their second title, further stoking the enthusiasm for next year's FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™, which the Germans will also host.
An impressive total of 395,295 fans watched the 32 matches in the host cities of Augsburg, Bielefeld, Bochum and Dresden - a new tournament record. The ever-expanding popularity of the women's game in Germany was evident, as was their organisation of a world-class event which gave players and fans alike a taster of what is to come in just under a year's time.
The final in Bielefeld drew a huge crowd of 24,633, and there was almost always a full house for the six matches Germany played en route to glory. It wasn't just the games involving the host nation that proved popular however, as matches involving teams from all over the globe also attracted fans in their droves - the quarter-final clash between Korea Republic and Mexico, for example, was played in front of a bumper crowd of 21,146 in Dresden.
Surprises from three continents
At Russia 2006 Korea DPR rose from the shadows to claim the crown. Two years later in Chile it was the United States who lifted the coveted trophy, while this year it was the hosts who prevailed under the meticulous tutelage of coach Maren Meinert. After winning all three of their group matches, Germany comfortably overcame Korea DPR 2-0 in the quarter-finals before hammering their Asian neighbours, Korea Republic, 5-1 in the last four. The final was a match of the utmost quality in terms of both tactics and strength, and ended in a 2-0 victory for the Germans over Nigeria.
Striker Alexandra Popp opened the scoring in the final, and the 19-year-old emerged as her side's chief protagonist as the Europeans marched to the title. Popp's ten goals earned her the adidas Golden Boot award for finishing as the tournament's top scorer, as well as the Golden Ball for being the best player at Germany 2010. "We've fulfilled our dream," said Popp shortly after the final in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
The tournament also provided the stage for Africa and South America to emerge as new powers in women's football, while a fifth nation joined Australia, China, Japan, and Korea DPR as a force on the Asian continent - Korea Republic. Along with Nigeria and Colombia, they reached the semi-finals of a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup for the very first time, with the Colombians managing to do so at the first attempt. All three showed an impressive blend of individual class and tactical discipline, further evidence that the women's game is developing in all corners of the world.
One of the biggest shocks of the tournament was Nigeria's penalty shoot-out victory over defending champions USA in the last eight. Jill Ellis' American troops hardly failed to impress either, with striker Sydney Leroux, adidas Golden Ball winner at Chile 2008, netting five goals while Bianca Henninger picked up the adidas Golden Glove for the competition's best goalkeeper. However, the enthusiastic west Africans finally realised their undoubted potential, ending the USA's dream of a third title in the process.
With other pre-tournament favourites such as England, France, Japan and Brazil all falling at the first hurdle, the door opened for some of the lesser-known stars from the world of women's football to shine. South Korean star Ji So Yun and Lady Andrade of Colombia were just two of the names who played their way into the fans' hearts with some elegant attacking displays.
With 11 months to go until the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 kicks off in Germany, the U-20 edition, thanks to its memorable matches and unforgettable atmosphere, served as the ideal appetiser for next summer's main event.
Brazil, Costa Rica, Germany, England, France, Ghana, Japan, Colombia, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden, Switzerland, USA.
Augsburg, Bielefeld, Bochum, Dresden
3. Korea Republic
Names to look out for
Lady Andrade (Colombia), Antonia Goransson (Sweden), Bianca Henninger (USA), Kim Kulig (Germany), Sydney Leroux (USA), Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany), Ebere Orji (Nigeria), Alexandra Popp (Germany), Ji So Yun (Korea Republic)
FIFA Fair Play Award
10: Alexandra Popp (Germany)
8: Ji So Yun (Korea Republic)
5: Sydney Leroux (USA)
12,353 (average per match)