The quarterfinals matches for the 2012 Under-20 Women’s World Cup were a mix of the predictable and the dramatic.
On the predictable side, Germany rather easily defeated Norway 3:0. The match between Japan and South Korea was more a mix of predictable and dramatic, with South Korea getting an early equalizer before Japan re-took the lead for good.
The other two quarterfinals, Mexico vs. Nigeria, and United States vs. North Korea, were each a bit more dramatic, as both went to extra time. Against Mexico, Nigeria needed a stoppage time goal to seal victory. Meanwhile, the United States took a 1:0 lead over North Korea off a strike from Vanessa DiBernardo, only to see the Koreans equalize and send the match into extra time. Eight minutes into extra time, Chioma Ubogagu headed in the game-winner, off a Crystal Dunn cross.
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It took Nigeria an extra time goal to separate themselves from Mexico in a match that was mostly an exercise in scoring futility. Nigeria had 33 shots, but only 10 on goal, while Mexico made 17 attempts, with only 4 on target.
In the later match, Japan dominated as expected, but after falling behind 0:1 in the first ten minutes, South Korea executed a quality counterattack to equalize in the 15th minute. But four minutes later, Japan once again took the lead, and then doubled their advantage eight minutes before the break.
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Germany got out to a quick 2:0 lead in the first seven minutes thanks to a counter-attack goal by Lena Lotzen, off a Dzsenifer Marozsan assist, and a Melanie Leupolz rebound shot after Norway’s goalkeeper, Nora Gjoen, was unable to secure a save. In the second half, Norway held firm against Germany’s attacking prowess, with Gjoen stopping a Marozsan penalty shot. However, about six minutes before full time, centerback powered in a header off a Marozsan cross to score Germany’s final goal.
After a disappointing set of group matches, the United States rebounded with a tense 2:1 victory over North Korea in extra time. The Americans scored first when a poor clearance in the 52nd minute found its way to an unmarked Vanessa DiBernardo who took a quick dribble and unleashed a hooking shot just out of the reach of goalkeeper O Chang Ran. The Koreans would equalized 23 minutes later after a pass found an unmarked Kim Su Gyong at the top of the USA’s box. (At first blush, that defensive error would seem to fall on the closest player, Julie Johnston, who otherwise had a very solid outing.) No additional goals would be scored until stoppage time, when a charging Crystal Dunn launched a cross into the box toward Chioma Ubogagu, who headed in the game-winner. The ball grazed the hands of the Korean ‘keeper, but she was unable to make a save.
With the USA’s and Germany’s wins, Group D is the only group to have two teams advance to the semifinals.
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LOOKING AHEAD: THE SEMIFINALS
On September 4th, the two semifinal matches will be held in Tokyo. The winners of those matches will advance to the title match on September 8th, while the losers will play in the Third Place match, also on the 8th. Both matches will be televised live on ESPNU.
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United States vs. Nigeria (3:00 a.m. EDT) — Both teams played quarterfinals that went to extra time, but Nigeria will have an extra day of rest and no travel day, although Saitama’s Komaba Stadium, where the USA played, and Tokyo’s National Stadium, where Nigeria played and where all the remaining matches will be held, are only a twenty mile drive apart.
This will be a match between the team that has fouled the most, Nigeria with 74 fouls, versus the team with the least fouls, the United States, with just 24 fouls. On a per match basis, taking into account the extra time both teams played, that averages out to 17.1 fouls for Nigeria, versus 5.5 fouls for the USA.
It will also be a rematch of the two squads’ 2010 quarterfinals meeting (FIFA.com), where Nigeria advanced on penalties. In that match, Nigeria had 26 fouls and 4 yellow cards, to just 5 fouls for the USA.
Nigeria has a less organized and less potent offense than North Koreans, so in that respect, they will be less of a challenge than the Koreans. However, Nigeria is notoriously more physical, with a historically higher propensity to foul, so playing Nigeria will be more challenging in terms of mental composure.
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Japan vs. Germany (6:30 a.m. EDT) — Neutrals will probably have wished that this match-up would have happened in the final, but that was not to be. The contrast in technical styles — Japan, with its quick, slick passing, and Germany with its fast counter-attacking strategy — will make this an interesting match.
Japan’s defense has struggled somewhat, conceding at least one goal in three of its four matches. Japan’s back line is vulnerable on fast counter-attack runs as their ‘backs simply do not have the pace to keep up with speedy players. So, given Germany’s counter-attacking prowess and their strong defensive performance so far — zero goals conceded — Germany should be slight favorites.