Wednesday, July 21, 2010

U20 Women's World Cup: more questions than answers

This photograph was posted yesterday on the US Women's National Team blog, without comment. I am going to follow their lead, and say nothing about it - turning instead to the questions raised by the results of the first round of play in FIFA's U20 Women's World Cup.

Can someone please explain how the English women's U20 squad ends up in the bottom of its group?  And how Japan, which has a great senior squad, doesn't advance? Mexico made it through - this is fantastic news - is anyone talking about this? What is women's soccer like in Mexico, anyway? Columbia is in the quarter finals too? (Is it just me, or did their group look, well, like a cakewalk?) North Korea eliminated Brazil from contention - huh? What? And why did South Korea keep their superstar Ji So Yun on the bench for the first half? 

And what is up with Korean women's soccer, anyway? They have been a strong side for a while, and both North and South Korea advanced out of their groups. An educated guess: Strong support for women's soccer in the national football associations of these countries is manifesting in these young sides showing us who is developing their talent, and who isn't.  Is it just me, or do Ghana and Nigeria play a version of the game that looks, well, fun? When I see them play, I want to join the team.  Why is that?  Is it just me, or do some of these less heralded squads have unreal talent on them - where do those women play when they aren't playing for their national squads?

I am all questions - no answers, because I am on the road. It isn't like I can pick up a local sports paper to get this information. I managed to catch a few minutes of a streaming live broadcast of Japan's 3-1 thrashing of the English squad.  It was a European sports channel which had - gasp - a FEMALE CALLING THE MATCH.  She was awesome - very witty, in a deadpan girl-jock sort of way. When the guy announcer said that the English side needed to do something, she said, "Uhm, like, score?"  I split my sides laughing.  I am suffering from World Cup burn-out, and have had my fill of the utterly meaningless chatter filling up space, and I'm done with acrobatic statements avoiding the obvious. Another question: Who is she?!

Boy would I love something besides the FIFA reports to read - thank goodness for All White Kit. For some answers to the above, check out AWK.  (I'm following The Girls in the Cheap Seats, too - a new podcast covering all sorts of soccer stuff - hilarious statement about the USWNT U20 team's underwhelming performance against Ghana - "I felt like I was watching the men's team.") But before you hop over there, I am hoping a few of you will fill in these gaps in our collective knowledge in the comments section....


  1. In a small plug for the podcast/blog I co-run - we are talking about Mexico:

    We <3 Mexico. We've been covering the U-20 WWC for a while and been underwhelmed with the US before it was cool.

    North and South Korea have been strong in the youth ranks for at least 4 years. It is only a matter of time until it REALLY percolates up into the full teams

  2. Many thanks for the links. You bring up a few good questions for which I can merely offer a few not-so-good answers:

    England: Much like the men's team in the WC, the U-20's suffered from some seriously stubborn tactics. They had a group that features teams with very open, attack-minded styles of football and England suffered as a result of this. It was typical English (i.e. its failure to adapt to modern tactics)and that's coming from a long-standing admirer of the English WNT.

    Mexico - Not much run in the Mexican media, as would be expected. But it seems like this generation will be the one that will put Mexico on the map as far as women's soccer is concerned. A few of their players are a total joy to watch (for fans of attractive soccer at least) and they're fitting quarterfinalists.

    Colombia - Total surprises of this tournament thus far. Again, attractive/attacking/free-flowing football wins out. (Women do it better.)

    Brazil - Who knows. The senior team haven't played a competitive match in 2 years so it's impossible to gauge the progress of that country's women's soccer which is a little tragic.

    Korea's - This also mystifies me. Football has seemingly improved dramatically on the men's side since the '02 WC so perhaps some residual effects were shared with its women. North Korea are typically finalists at this tournament but South Korea looked like the faves until they met the United States.
    And as for Ji So Yun - the match meant nothing in the end for South Korea so I'm assuming they didn't want to take a risk on starting her. Which may be justified after seeing her teammate horrifically break her ankle.

    The tournament has had some really, really engaging stuff. May it continue. Without any more broken ankles of course.

  3. Now that's what I'm talking about - Joan, I'll try to listen to your podcast today and readers should do the same. And AWK: Brazil - that situation for the senior women - I can't wrap my head around that. What the hell is going on there? When was their last match - been combing through the FIFA site, and can't find any info - how are they ranked so high, in that case??? More questions!

  4. Cross Conference podcast rules. I very much recommend the site and its podcasts to FaLW readers!

  5. The state/support of women's soccer in Brazil really needs some coverage -- again, like you Jennifer, I have only questions (which I might ask myself too, to see if it gets answers).

    As for Mexico, several of their players are in US women's college soccer and were born in the US, including a couple of their scorers so far, Alina Garcia-Mendez (Stanford) and Renae Cuellar (Arizona). Indeed, the USWNT might want to look at closely at some of them before they get senior caps with Mexico...

    Jeff Kassouf at the Equalizer has also been providing some good coverage:

  6. @Thomas, Alina Garciamendez has already been capped several times by the senior Mexico national team. Not sure about Cuellar. Garciamendez was last called up by the USA at the U-16 level, Cuellar at the U-18 level.

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Jennifer! Both my co-editor and I have enjoyed your blog and I'm pretty sure we have mentioned your posts in previous episodes. We're just awful about marketing ourselves.

  8. We've been in South Africa since January (pure coincidence) and our twin girls -- who arrived already as footie fanatics -- are coping with severe post-2010 WC blues by watching the Women's U-20 World Cup on TV. All games are broadcast live on the Supersport satellite channel, same one that showed the WC. The quarters have been fun, with some extraordinary goals scored. The girls pointed out to me that these amazing women players are hitting 30-yarders into the top corner with the same Jabulani ball that was so maligned a few weeks ago . . . strange, no? Anyway, everyone in the house is psyched for the semis on Thursday. After Ghana's dramatic exit from the (men's) WC, we're supporting Nigeria, although Germany looks very, very solid and has home-field advantage. Love the blog.

  9. Hi Jennifer,

    Great post. Thought you might be interested in this documentary film project about a slum girls soccer struggling to play in Argentina, where the sport is considered off-limits to women. Check it out: If you have any questions please feel free to email me at


  10. I think commentator you mentioned might have been lucy ward, she has the dry wit you've spoken of and regularly commentates on British Eurosport and BBC for the england games.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...