U20 Women’s World Cup: Final Thoughts and Pictures

I was in Montreal over the weekend for the Bronze Medal and Gold Medal matches of the tournament. First off, Montreal is an incredible city, I am still dreaming about the coffee I had at Café Olimpico, which is plastered with Italian football memorabilia and has six TV screens, all of which air international football all day, every day. If I lived in Montreal, I would be at this cafe all the time, nursing a coffee, watching football because the atmosphere is perfect.

The final games of the tournament were held at the Stadium in Parc Olympique, a complex of buildings that host major sporting events, and was built in 1976 for the Summer Olympics. Just as an aside, the Montreal Impact (a professional men’s soccer team that is part of the North American Major League Soccer), play at Stadium Saputo, which has a grass field…Parc Olympique Stadium is a turf field. I mention this because of the recent campaign, led by Abby Wambach – who is a fantastic advocate for sport equity – for all grass fields at Canadian facilities that are hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup (refresher here). And I have to agree, soccer on turf is not the same as soccer on grass, but this is a complex conversation that I will post about another time.

The Bronze Medal game between Korea DPR and France was a fantastic match, especially in the second half where five goals were scored back to back to back to back to back – it was thrilling. The quality of passing, footwork, defense, creativity, and determination was a joy to watch. Jon So Yon (defender) and Kim Chol Ok (goalkeeper) on Korea DPR, and Claire Lavogez (midfielder) and Griedge Mbock Bathy (defender) were all standouts on the pitch. Lavogez in particular is posed to be a star as she displayed some of the games most impressive moments (her picture*** is below, she wears #10).

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The Gold Medal match, on the other hand, didn’t have flow. Nigeria is a physical and fast team, and their approach set the tone for the most of the game. Nigeria also had better opportunities to score courtesy of their dynamic midfielder Asisat Oshoala who had several open looks in the box but could not finish. Nigeria’s goalie Sandra Chiichii (who is only 16 years old!) was also superb. I had high expectations of Germany, since they have dominated these tournaments in the past, but after watching this game, I wasn’t impressed. They were not organized and struggled to possess the ball and make accurate and consecutive passes but their goalie, Meike Kaemper, was solid.

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I was right in the middle of the tournament medal ceremony, which was a trip! It was so formal and slightly fancy and the crowd was really supportive and loving. There were moments in the Gold Medal match where the crowd was stomping their feet so strongly that the whole building was shaking (we really wanted a goal as most of the match was 0-0).

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The results of the tournament were: Germany (1) Nigeria (2) France (3) but it easily could have been different as I saw quality play from Canada, New Zealand, Korea DPR, and Korea Republic. Access to funds, institutional infrastructure, historical relationships to the game, gender equity, politics (both social and governmental) are huge factors in the development and success of female soccer programs around the world, this was very evident when watching the Central and South American and African teams who all have so much potential if only…

All in all, the tournament could have used some more advertising and flair and colour (I disliked the green they chose as the main tournament colour, it offended my sensibilities). But I was so impressed by the players and the energy of it all that in spite of FIFAs approach and regard for women’s soccer, there are girls and women around the globe who are elevating the game to new heights. I only wish that more women could participate so tournaments like these represent an even broader spectrum of athletes and nations.

***All pictures © Cristina Murano