U-20 WWC: The Final Draw – The USA gets China, Ghana, and Germany (Yes, Really!)

The final draw for the Under-20 Women’s World Cup was held in Tokyo earlier today. In a bit of a surprise, reigning and two-time U-20 WWC champion Germany was not seeded as one of the top three teams. Instead, North Korea was placed into the first pot, along with host Japan, Brazil, and the United States. On the positive side for the USA, this meant that they avoided North Korea during the group stage. But, it also opened up the possibility that the USA and Germany could be grouped together. And, guess what happened…

Group A: Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, New Zealand
Group B: Brazil, Italy, Nigeria, South Korea
Group C: North Korea, Norway, Argentina, Canada
Group D: Ghana, United States, Germany, China

Also, the full schedule is available as a PDF file.

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BACKING UP: THE POTS

Based on the tweets of Chris Henderson (@chris_awk), the pots were as follows:

Pot 1: Japan, North Korea, Brazil, USA
Pot 2: China, South Korea, Canada, Mexico
Pot 3: Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland
Pot 4: Ghana, Nigeria, Argentina, New Zealand

Due to the geographical diversity requirement, the USA was guaranteed to get either China or South Korea from Pot 2.

Edit: A photo on the Mexican FA’s website confirms that these were the pots. Also, one possible reason for not seeding Germany is that Pot 3 would have had three UEFA teams and one other team, either Argentina or New Zealand, guaranteeing that the non-UEFA team in Pot 3 would have been grouped with Germany. Similarly, one pot would have three Asian teams, which meant that Japan would be guaranteed to have the non-AFC squad. One alternative not used was having pots similar to those used for the senior Women’s World Cup and Olympics, where seeds are each placed into separate pots, but are given a special colored ball, signifying that they are picked first. That would have allowed Germany to be a seeded team.

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QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE GROUPS

Group A – As Easy As It Gets: Host Japan got an almost ridiculously easily draw in that it was grouped with Mexico, Switzerland, and New Zealand. The only way it could have possibly gotten any easier was if Japan drew Argentina instead of New Zealand. Japan should be able to top the group without too much problem, especially given its home soil advantage. As for the second place team, that should be Mexico, but New Zealand also has a fighting chance.

Group B – Up For Grabs: In 2010, Brazil did not make it out of their group. If Italy plays the role of 2010’s Sweden, then that could happen again. However, Brazil seems the most likely team to advance out of this group, with either Italy or Nigeria also advancing. But, South Korea, with its technical prowess, could trip up the other teams in the group, and earn a top two spot.

Group C – A Challenge For Canada: North Korea will likely claim one of the two top spots. That other spot will probably come down to either Canada or Norway. One advantage for Canada is that it plays Argentina first, so the CONCACAF runners-up should be able to get a win out of the gate, while Norway could be faced with dropping points, either through a loss or a draw.

Group D – Well, It Could Have Been Worse: The United States arguably got the most difficult teams from two of the groups: Germany and China. From Pot 4, the USA avoided Nigeria, who are the only African team that has regularly advanced out of the group stage. And, in some way, getting grouped with North Korea rather than Germany can be seen as a positive, in a “the devil you know” kind of way. One advantage for the USA and Germany is that they play each other last, so if both sides come away with six points in their first two matches, then the final group match will be for placement only.

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THE UNITED STATES’ SCHEDULE

USA vs GHANA
Monday, August 20th, 16:00 local time (3:00 am EDT / Midnight PDT)

USA vs CHINA
Thursday, August 23rd, 19:00 local time (6:00 am EDT / 3:00 am PDT)

USA vs GERMANY
Monday, August 27th, 16:00 local time (3:00 am EDT / Midnight PDT)

If the USA were to advance out of their group (“D”), they would play one of the top two teams from Group C: either 1D vs 2C or 2D vs 1C.

The full schedule (PDF) can be downloaded here.

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THE UNITED STATES’ RECENT RESULTS VERSUS ITS GROUP OPPONENTS

Germany: In February, the USA and Germany played at La Manga, Spain. The USA won 1:0 on an 81st minute goal by Lindsey Horan that was assisted by Chioma Ubogagu. (US Soccer)

China: In April, China came to California for two friendlies. In the end, the USA won the first match 4:1, but for the first 83 minutes, the USA had a 2:0 lead. Then, China got one back via a penalty to make it 2:1, and almost tied the match up, before the USA scored two late goals (88′, 90+2′). The second friendly was a slightly more comfortable 3:0 win, although the final goal also came in stoppage time.

Ghana: The USA has not played Ghana since the 2010 U-20 WWC, where they drew 1:1 with the African side in group play. However, this time around, the USA has much more offensive firepower distributed over more players.

Note: An additional post with more thoughts and notes on the USA’s group should be up either tonight or in the next day or so.