On Wednesday, New Zealand created the biggest headline so far from this year’s Under-20 Women’s World Cup when they got out to an early 2:0 lead and held host Japan to an eventual draw.Also in Group A, Mexico pulled out a 2:0 win over Switzerland, keeping their hopes alive, while snuffing out Switzerland’s. Meanwhile, in Group B, under-performing Brazil earned its second draw of the tournament via another late goal against Nigeria, and South Korea got their first points via a 2:0 win over Italy.
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*Regarding the replay, their were technical difficulties with the video feed which caused ESPN to go to commercial three times in the match, first around the 42nd minute, which was not fixed until halftime, and then twice in the second half.
New Zealand 2, Japan 0… That was the score after 15 minutes between the hosts and the Junior Football Ferns, and the only thing really shocking about the match, which ended at a 2:2 draw. The first goal came in the 11th minute, when a dangerous cross was sent into Japan’s six-yard box toward Hannah Wilkinson. That cross was partially blocked, but an inattentive Ayu Nakada got a foot on the ball and sent it into the back of the net. Four minutes later, a New Zealand counterattack provided the second goal when Hannah Wilkinson charged up the right flank and sent a cross to Rosie White in Japan’s box. White spun and shot a slow grounder into the bottom right corner of the goal, beyond the reach of Japan’s goalkeeper, Sakiko Ikeda.
In the 37th minute, Japan got a goal back when New Zealand did not clear the ball fast enough. Yoko Tanaka, who got her first start of the tournament, dispossessed a defender and struck a quick shot toward goal. The shot would probably had been saved by Junior Ferns ‘keeper Erin Nayler, who had a very strong match, but the ball deflected off another defender. Japan’s second goal came with twenty minutes to go in the match, when Yoko Tanaka sent in a corner kick which was headed into goal by Ayaka Michigami, just out of reach of both the ‘keeper, Nayler, and the defender on the post.
As expected, Japan dominated statistically: In possession, 62% to 38%, or 32 minutes to 20 minutes. In shots, 28 to 8, although with only 11 on goal. New Zealand had just 2 shots on goal. Regarding corners, Japan had 14, compared to just 1 for the Junior Ferns.
This match illustrated — and not for the first time — the Young Nadeshiko’s main offensive weakness: its lack of creativity in breaking down defenses in order to develop quality scoring chances. This was also an issue in Japan’s two friendlies against the United States back in June.
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GROUP A: Mexico 2, Switzerland 0.
MEX Goals: Huerta (46′), Jimenez (90+1′).
See Also: FIFA.com match page.
After a scoreless first half, Mexico took a quick 1:0 lead after the break when Sofia Huerta slipped past the Swiss back line, received a long pass, and sent in a scorcher from 15 yards out. Not to be outdone, Olivia Jimenez, who entered the match in the 89th minute, had a golazo two minutes later when she latched onto a loose ball in the midfield, dribbled about fifteen yards and unleashed a shot from forty-plus yards out.
Switzerland had a handful of dangerous chances to score in the match, but either missed the target or had their shot by Mexico’s senior goalkeeper, Cecilia Santiago.
With the loss, Switzerland is mathematically eliminated from reaching the quarterfinals.
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Group A will play their final matches on Tuesday, August 28th, with simultaneous kick-offs at 6:20 a.m. EDT. Host Japan will play already-eliminated Switzerland, while New Zealand and Mexico face-off in the other match. Japan can advance as long it does not lose by more than 4 goals. The other match is an unofficial knockout, with Mexico needing a win, while New Zealand just requires a draw.
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Once again, Brazil found itself down 1:0 at halftime, and once again, a late goal was needed to salvage a draw. Just before the break, Nigeria scored its goal when Francisca Ordega received a pass just outside the box, turned and struck a shot to the near post, at waist height, beyond the reach of Brazil’s goalkeeper, Daniele. In the waning moments of the half, Nigeria had two dangerous chances, but luckily for Brazil, were unable to convert. With less than five minutes of normal time left, Brazil earned a free kick just outside Nigeria’s box. Thais Guedes’ kick was deftly headed by Giovanna Oliveira, causing a slight upward redirection beyond the fingers of Nigeria’s substitute ‘keeper, Chioma Nwankwo. Nigeria’s starting goalkeeper, Ibubeleye Whyte, left the match in the 64th minute for medical reasons.
In the later match, South Korea kept its hopes of reaching the knock-out stage alive with a 2:0 win over Italy. The first goal in the 54th minute when a weak clearance was poached by Lee Geummin, who dribbled into the box, while fighting off two Italian defenders, and sent in a low grounder to the right post. The second goal came just two minutes later, on a breakaway counter, with Jeoun Eunha coolly receiving a diagonal cross from the right flank, then dribbling into box and laying off a grounder just to the right of a helpless Laura Giuliani.
South Korea 2, Italy 0.
KOR Goals: Lee Geummin (54′), Jeoun Eunha (56′).
See Also: FIFA.com match page.
With all four teams mathematically alive, Group B is set for a dramatic finish when the squads play their final group matches on Tuesday, August 28th (simultaneous kick-offs at 3:20 a.m. EDT). In Tokyo, Brazil takes on South Korea. Both teams need a win to control their own destiny, but a draw could be good enough for the Koreans if the match in Kobe, Nigeria vs. Italy, ends with a draw, a Nigeria win, or a 1:0 Italy win.
Regarding Nigeria/Italy, the Africans will control their own destiny with a win or a draw, but Italy needs a win by 3 goals or more.
There is a scenario that would force the dreaded drawing of lots — If Italy defeats Nigeria 2:0 and the Brasil vs. South Korea match ends in a 1:1 draw, Italy, Nigeria, and South Korea will be even on points (4), goal difference (0), and goals scored (3). That will invoke the second part of Rule 25.5 (PDF, page 32) for a tie-breaker, which means that only matches between the tied teams are used. In other words: a three team league table that ignores the three teams’ matches with Brazil. Looking at just those matches, each squad would have a 2:0 win and an 0:2 loss, so there would be a three-way tie. Thus, requiring a drawing of lots under 25.5.g.
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THE NEXT MATCH DAY: FRIDAY, AUGUST 24TH
GROUP D — The only match televised in the USA is the United States vs. China, which kicks off at 6:00 a.m. EDT (ESPNU/ESPN3). The Americans beat China twice in friendlies back in April. And, given China’s subpar performance against Germany, the USA should get another win. The earlier match, between Germany and Ghana, should be a more tightly contested match, and one that Germany will likely win. Victories by Germany and the United States will ensure that both squads advance to the knockout stage.
GROUP C — Canada and North Korea can both ensure mutual advancement with wins. The Koreans take on minnows Argentina in a match that should be a relatively easy win for the Asian squad. In the later match, Canada plays Norway, who are looking to rebound after their loss in the opener. That will likely be a tight match, but one which Canada can break open.
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Referee assignments for Thursday’s matches are available at Refereeing World (blogspot.com). The center referee for USA-China is Sweden’s Pernilla Larsson. She has ref’ed two Nordic Cup matches involving the U-21 USWNT: a 4:0 win over Iceland during group play back in 2005 and a 4:0 win over Germany in the 2007 title match.