USA draws France, Gambia and Korea DPR in FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
The U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team will face France, Gambia and Korea DPR in Group B at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, taking place at six stadiums in Azerbaijan from Sept. 22-Oct. 13. The Final Draw took place at the International Mugam Centre in Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku on Friday morning Eastern Time.
CONCACAF champion USA, host Azerbaijan, European champion Germany and Asian champion Japan earned seeds. In Group A, Azerbaijan drew Colombia, Nigeria and Canada. Group C features Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Brazil. Group D features Germany, Uruguay, China PR and Ghana.
The Republic of Azerbaijan, which is slightly smaller than the state of Maine and has a population of almost nine million, is located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe and is bound by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. Five of the tournament’s six venues are in Baku with one stadium located about 175 miles south in Lankaran.
The U.S. plays its first Group B match at Lankaran Stadium in Lankaran, opening its tournament on Sept. 22 against France (1 p.m. local / 4 a.m. ET) before facing Gambia on Sept. 25 (5 p.m. local / 8 a.m. ET) at Dalga Arena in Baku. The USA will finish group play on Sept. 29 against Korea DPR (5 p.m. local / 8 a.m. ET) at Bayil Stadium in Baku. Lankaran Stadium features a grass field, but both Dalga Arena and Bayil Stadium have artificial turf surfaces.
“It’s very exciting to have the opportunity for the team to play some of the top countries in the world, especially in group play,” said U.S. U-17 head coach Albertin Montoya. “I’ve seen France and North Korea play in the past year and I would put them in the top five in the world. I had the opportunity to watch France in the European U-17 championships and they are very technical and have one of the most special players in the world in their No. 10. I thought Korea was the best team in Asian qualifying although they lost to Japan on a last-minute goal. They are typically strong all over the field but also athletic, and they will be dangerous. Honestly, we don’t know much about Gambia, but we’ll get a chance to see them play over there before our match.”
The USA’s opening game against an always talented French side will be one of the marquee first-round matchups. The USA and France met in the final game of group play at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, battling to a 1-1 draw that sent the USA through to the quarterfinal and sent the French home. Of the 42 teams that began the qualifying rounds in Europe, France made it to the semifinals along with Switzerland, Denmark and Germany. In the semifinals, France defeated Switzerland 5-1 and Germany beat Denmark 2-0. In the championship game, the two European powers tied 1-1 before the Germans eventually prevailed in penalty kicks.
The meeting with Gambia will be the first against the third-place finishers from Africa at any level for a U.S. Women’s National Team. The Gambians, who defeated Tunisia for their berth to Azerbaijan, will be making their first appearance in a FIFA Women’s World Cup. In fact, the West Africans had never before entered qualifying for this tournament and earned a berth to the finals on their first attempt.
The Americans will finish group play against North Korea, the country that won the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008, defeating the USA 2-1 in overtime. The North Koreans also advanced to the semifinal of the 2010 tournament, where they fell to Japan and then lost again in the third-place match to Spain.
“One thing about this group is that we’re not going to have an opportunity to ease into it,” said Montoya. “We are facing some of the world’s top teams right off the bat and that will help us set the tone for the rest of the tournament. I would call it the Group of Death for sure, but getting to play the best and test ourselves is the exciting part about World Cups. We are looking forward to it, we are prepared and we are ready for the challenge.”
The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will feature 16 teams, with the top two finishers in each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Should the U.S. advance to the second round by winning the group, it would meet a second-place team from Group A. If the USA finishes second in the group, it would face the first-place team from Group A.
The USA will have two training events – one foreign tour and one domestic camp – before the Women’s World Cup. The U.S. U-17 Women’s World Cup Team will hold a training camp in Cyprus before arriving in Azerbaijan about a week before the first match.
“Now, it’s just about fine-tuning little details and making sure we are preparing to face the different styles we may encounter, making sure the back line, the midfield and forward lines are linking well together,” said Montoya. “We’ve done a good job of making sure we are defensively sound and now it’s about the attacking third, making sure we can finish our chances and put teams away. We played the best soccer of this cycle during our last training camp and we want to make sure we can possess the ball and dictate the rhythm of the game against these strong teams and make sure we have the ball more than not.”
- This is the third FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and the tournaments have been dominated by the two Koreas. North Korea won the inaugural tournament in 2008 in New Zealand, defeating the USA in overtime 2-1 in the championship game and South Korea won the second installment in 2010 in Trinidad & Tobago, defeating Japan in penalty kicks after an entertaining 3-3 tie through regulation and overtime.
- These will be the first matches ever by any U.S. Women’s National Team in Azerbaijan.
- The USA missed the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after falling in penalty kicks in the semifinal of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament to Canada despite out-scoring the opposition 38-0 over five games.
- In T&T in 2010, all three CONCACAF entrants – Canada, Mexico and T&T – failed to advance out of the first round.
- Four members of the USA’s 2008 U-17 Women’s World Cup Team are currently in the mix with the 2012 U.S. U-20s.
- Spain made the semifinals of this tournament in 2010, but failed to qualify this time around.
- Defending champion South Korea also failed to qualify.
- The other two semifinalists from 2010 – Korea DPR and Japan – did qualify.
- Of the four semifinalists in the inaugural tournament in 2008 – the USA, Germany, Korea DPR and England – only the English will not be present in Azerbaijan.
- Both of the host cities – Baku and Lankaran – are located on the east coast on the Caspian Sea.
2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
Group A (Baku, Lankaran):
Group B (Baku, Lankaran):
Korea DPR (North Korea)
Group C (Baku):
Group D (Baku, Lankaran):
– U.S. 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Schedule –
Date Opponent Venue Kickoff
Sept. 22 France Lankaran Stadium; Lankaran, Azerbaijan 1 p.m. local / 4 a.m. ET
Sept. 25 Gambia Dalga Arena; Baku, Azerbaijan 5 p.m. local / 8 a.m. ET
Sept. 29 Korea DPR Bayil Stadium; Baku, Azerbaijan 5 p.m. local / 8 a.m. ET