Headline: Very mixed picture
But to put that at the beginning. A lot of things havent been yet what we had been hoping for. Though the overall development is still ok. Seen from the average performance level especially from the “smaller” nations. But also there it is more an only maybe just instead of an convincing yes, there is an improvement. It is because of a still increasing tempo of the game overall but there is still plenty of room for individual improvement especially from the weaker players of those nations who will not proceed to the ko-stages.
We talked about the fact that the 2012 U20 WC probably was an astonishing culmination of extraordinary talented players of the top teams. So we could easily accept that the 2014 U20 WC wasnt quite on this level regarding the top. But we hoped we might get back on track in 2016. Clearly again here the tempo of most of the actions has risen and you really see how well the players overall are able to deal with the heat despite some cramping on day1.
And maybe the heat and the probably often exhausting travelling have to be given some tribute. We would like to know more about bio-chemistry and what a role it plays for players of the northern hemisphere going into winter now suddenly having to adapt to very hot and humid summer conditions. But that also couldnt explain why the starting players often look like it would be a U19 tournament istead of an U20. That should be not as different as U16 from U17 but still. Spain and France have been the finalists of the U19 European Championships this year. And we considered this tournament also again to be some good development compared to the previous years, especially the year before where Sweden won. However. That Spain with nearly the same team from the U19 European Championships now is also amongst the top teams of the U20 WC so far doesnt look too good for the level of the U20s. That is nearly the same for Japan who at least started a few 20yo but their key players are also the same like in the U17 two years ago(which means today U19)
We also mentioned the absence of some of the U17 players who seem also quite a loss for the U20 WC. That is also not a good sign for the 3 years older. Sanchez is already one of the best U20 players of the USA. Castellanos would be amongst the best for Venezuela. As Katoto for France. And several U17 players from Germany have a better standing in their Bundesliga teams already than half the U20 team playing here. U17 player Sandra Owusu-Ansah is now also amongst the key players for the U20 from Ghana. And so on …
And thus the level here so far is a little bit of a set back.
We have written the last post before the match France – USA. So a few impressions after that(and before day2) from there. It was also a little bit of what we already expected before the tournament. USPugh can win the tournament because she seemed to be able to threaten the French goal just as much nearly single handedly as the whole French team together. Thats a little bit overstretching but sums up the game. France as we are used to see unable to convert individual class into goals. But always able to find ways to make some faults in the defense that allows for chances for the opponents. A sloppy unnecessary foul in overtime should have resulted in a penalty. Nobody would be overly astonished if the next game between these two would end with a 1:0 win for the USA. Interestingly by the way France didnt play some of their senior capped players. Especially Marie-Charlotte Leger not starting was quite surprising. She usually has a strong drive towards the goal. But she didnt start for Montpellier lately and we havent seen her this season yet. On the other side team USA also didnt come up very convincingly. Not matching France in open play was expected and no problem. But a little bit better defending in and around their box is needed. Otherwise they are always very vulnerable when they do not have a lot of bodies back.
But after seeing Spain – Japan on day2 there is no reason to say any of them are likely to beat France or the USA. They might. But they might be deafeated as well. Both were good. But not invincible at all. Japan looked the stronger in the first, Spain in the second half. Both couldnt create many chances. But Spain nearly none at all. They will need a lot of lucky wins when they cant find a way to a better offense. Their goal came from an unlucky and totally accidental hand ball in the box. So Japan looked the slightly better on the day. But Spain looked to have more additional resources in the tank because some players didnt have their best day very obviously.
And then came day2 for France and the USA. When seeing NewZealand play at these tournaments you ask yourself where Australia is? Dont know but might be because they joined the Asians with the senior team they have to go there with the youth too. And then they look lost there against the top Asian teams?
But what about France again? Our favorites more than lucky to stay in the tournament. Unbelievable what they did again. Ghana didnt take their penalty to put the game to bed for a 3:1 lead with about 10 minutes to go. The French defender very lucky not to have been red carded too. And after that there were the usual desperate attempts with some shots that only increased their frustration while Ghana defended quite comfortably. But out of nothing the equaliser for the 2:2 in the 95th minute. France obviously underestimated the difficulty of the task at hand despite they have seen the African teams and especially Ghana rising a lot from a disappointing day1 at the U17 a few weeks ago. At least it would have been a basic feature to look at for a professional pre-game analysis. France changed a lot of players at the start. Then brought in Karchaoui for example after 60 minutes after they realised it is getting close. And Ghana were very unlucky. They are a special team. Like a lot of the girls teams still more than any other team from their country representing their very own traditional style of football. Ghana is very athletic. Their athletic forwards are quite a dangerous opponent when they have the room to use their athletic advantage. They are not very strong when they need to combine together in tight areas. In the defense they are difficult to beat by individual actions based on power and speed because they are excellent there. But more vulnerable to good dummies and combination play. Most of these are things that are a bad match up for France. But on the day Ghana was also better in discipline and organisation and in the work rate. That was poor from France and we will see whether they can change that or how far they can go. And it was also not typical for the senior team who are not bad workers but poorly organised in offense. Very interesting to see what will happen in this group. New Zealand might not be without chances against France. They have mainly been caught by the USA in the first minutes. But the main game might be USA – Ghana. USA must stay with at least 4 defenders against the 2 Ghana forwards all the time and not leave them any space. But Pugh and Sanchez are better able than France to get through the Ghana defense. So Ghana need to stay deep too outnumbering the US offense.
Hopefully though they are not using unfair means to stop the US players like we have seen African teams do sometimes in the past by overusing their athleticism. Might be the ref plays a role here too.
Korea DPR are through as 1st. Sweden against Brazil will play for 2nd spot. Sweden needs to win.
Spain 1st very likely. Japan 2nd very likely. Need to keep Nigeria behind them. Probability 95%.
Might get close and difficult. And whoever ends third would have been with good chances at least in group A and D.
France should win but we know them. But New Zealand will be easier to beat than Ghana though they are also no bad team.
A USA defeat is not overwhelmingly unlikely. Still Pugh and Sanchez should be better able to hurt Ghana than France did. But that is far from sure.
That is the group to watch.
Germany 1st probably. Mexico should get 2nd.
They need to get more out of their game against Venezuela than South Korea from theirs against Germany. Little bit of a mix up going on here so far and a lot can happen though.
The navigation and overview on the FIFA website are also things that might be helped by further development. W25 by the way means W like winner of game 25 which means the winner of the first quarter final (the 25th game of the tournament) and that means if all group winners would win their quarters then winners of group A and C would meet in the semis and winners of B and D.
Also finding that in the group stage if two teams are on the same points the goal differential is more important than the result between the two isnt easy. However that means that 3rd goal against New Zealand would allow the USA a 1 goal defeat to stay ahead of Ghana. Dont know whether they had the importance on the screen when they scored it.