Of the four groups in this year’s Under-20 Women’s World Cup, Group B is the biggest toss-up. Brazil, on paper, should dominate, but their usual lack of preparation may mean a repeat of 2010, when the South American champions failed to advance out of their group. 2010 Runners-Up Nigeria and Italy, who return to this tournament for the first time since 2004, are the other main contenders in this group. But the wild card is South Korea, who only qualified for this tournament after Uzbekistan was unable to host the tournament. Two years ago, the Koreans won the U-17 Women’s World Cup on penalties over Japan and finished third at the U-20 Women’s World Cup.
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DYNAMIC SCORING DUO — Thais Guedes (or “Thaisnha”), who has played in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and the 2012 Olympics, along with Ketlen, accounted for 16 (7 and 9, respectively) of Brazil’s 28 goals during qualifying. Ketlen also has senior caps, as she played in Brazil’s 2011 Pan American Games squad, which lost to Canada in the final.
SENIOR INTERNATIONALS — Besides Thais Guedes and Ketlen, a couple other players have been capped by Brazil’s senior WNT, including midfielders Beatriz (or “Bia”), who scored 3 goals during U-20 qualifying, and Maria.
MINIMAL PREPARATION, AGAIN — Since CONMEBOL’s qualifying tournament ended in February, Brazil has only came together for one reported two week camp, which was at the end of June. (CBF.com.br) In that camp, they scrimmaged against two U-15 club squads and Brazil’s senior WNT. The next time the team was together was for their departure from Brazil, on August 13th.
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FROM TORINO TO AMHERST? — Captain Martina Rosucci will apparently play for UMass, starting this fall (UMass Athletics press release), although her name is not currently on their online roster (www.umassathletics.com).
NOTABLE TUNE-UP MATCHES — Italy avenged their semifinal qualifying loss to Norway with a 4:2 comeback win over the Norwegians in April. In July, Norway lost 3:0 to Canada.
STANDOUTS — Two players made UEFA.com’s top ten watchlist from the qualifying tournament: “the most technically gifted member of Italy’s midfield” Martina Rosucci and “dimunitive winger” Katia Coppola who has pace, awareness, and an accurate shot.
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RECYCLED PLAYERS — Seven players have been “recycled” from the 2010 U-20 WWC squad, which is a big no-no among the powers and critics that be in Nigeria. (See July news article from AllAfrica.com; July news article from www.guardiannewsngr.com; and August article specifically on Nigeria’s U-20 WNT)
SENIOR INTERNATIONALS — One of those “recycled” players is forward Ebere Orji (FIFA.com), who has played in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, as well as two U-20 WWCs and a U-17 WWC. Other veterans of the 2011 WWC are forwards Desire Oparanozie and Francisca Ordega, plus defender Josephine Chukwunonye.
NOTABLE TUNE-UP FRIENDLIES — Nigeria split a pair of friendlies with Ghana, losing 2:3 and winning 2:1.
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HERE BY THE GRACE OF THE SOCCER GODS — South Korea finished fourth in the 2011 AFC Women’s Under-19 Championship, one spot out of qualifying, but because Uzbekistan could not get its act together for hosting this tournament, FIFA relocated this U-20 WWC to Japan, and gave the Young Nadeshiko the automatic host slot, which opened up a third at-large spot from Asia for South Korea.
REIGNING UNDER-17 WORLD CHAMPIONS — In 2010, South Korea won the U-17 Women’s World Cup on penalties over Japan in the final. Several players from that squad are on the roster for this tournament, including golden boot winner Yeo Min-Ji, who scored 8 goals in six matches.
NOTABLE TUNE-UP FRIENDLIES — In August, South Korea defeated China 2:0 but then drew 2:2 with Mexico.
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