The United States stumbled against Ghana yet again. No, not Landon Donovan and company, but the U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team in its opening game of Group D action for the two teams. This time, the U.S. – defending U-20 Women’s World Cup Champions – would salvage a 1-1 draw.
Elizabeth Cudjoe gave Ghana a stunning 1-0 lead in just the seventh minute with a cracking goal from 30-yards out that smacked the inside of the post and went in. The defending champions were stunned and had little to offer as an answer. Movement from the United States was fluent and convincing, but there was mo finishing ability in the final third. Just seven of the United States’ 25 shots in the game were on target.
U.S. forward Sydney Leroux, who won the Golden Shoe in 2008 as the competition’s top scorer, struggled to find any rythm in the game. She did, however, score the equalizer in the 70th minute to salvage a point for the United States on what was surely a disappointing result for the Americans.
FINAL: United States 1-1 Ghana (Highlights)
U.S. Head Coach JILL ELLIS
On the match:
“It was unfortunate to give up an early goal, but I was very proud with the way we came out in the second half. It was extremely hot out there, but honestly I thought our players lacked some energy in the first half. We re-grouped, made a couple of tactical and personnel adjustments and I thought we played much better in the second half. Certainly, the challenge at this point is for us is to put two 45-minute halves together.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect from this team because I hadn’t seen any film of them, but I watched some of their U-17 team (at the 2008 FIFA U-17 World Cup) and we knew we were going to deal with a very athletic team with some special individuals who can solve pressure. We certainly didn’t overlook Ghana, it was more about the commitment and energy that was needed to match their initially. They are a quality team.”
On looking forward:
“I told the players, we control our own destiny. We still have two more group games to play and we have to be focused and ready for the next match and I think our players will be.”
On giving up an early goal:
“I didn’t think we started the game well and the goal certainly unsettled us, but once we got into halftime and talked about it, I thought we put together a good second half and played very well.”
U.S. Forward SYDNEY LEROUX
On having to come from behind to earn the draw:
“The goal came early and we just had to fight back. Maya (Hayes) came in and was an absolute spark off the bench and it was an unselfish play for her to pass me the ball. It felt good to tie it up and we kept going and maybe were unlucky not to get a winning goal, but I am proud of my team for coming back.”
On the USA almost pulling out the win:
“You gain momentum from big moments. When we scored that goal, we really felt like we were back into the game and we were getting our rhythm. At the beginning of the game, some nerves were there and it’s a new atmosphere for a lot of these players, so after their goal, we calmed down and played our game.”
U.S. Defender and ussoccer.com Woman of the Match CRYSTAL DUNN
On the match:
“We kept our heads up after the goal. We knew it was early in the game and the fight was there for the entire game. We just have to bring that fight to the next game, but connect our passes a little better and sharpen up our finishing and we’ll be fine.”
Elsewhere, England tied Nigeria 1-1 after Kerys Harrop scored in the 45th minute for the English but Nigeria’s Desire Oparanozie would equalize in the 60th minute.
FINAL: England 1-1 Nigeria
Mo Marley, England coach
It was a very tough match for us. We knew what kind of game they were going to play and it was very difficult to keep hold of the ball with all the pressure they were putting on us. You get games like that in these types of competitions and we’re happy with the result. That’s the way these tournaments go.
Ndem Egan, Nigeria coach
We put in a very good performance and considering it was our first game it’s a great result for us. We could have picked up three points quite easily but we did have to come back from a goal down, and it’s better to get one point than none at all. We created a lot of chances but only one of them went in. My players should be happy with the draw and they should believe in themselves. If we keep on playing like that, we can go a very long way.
Desire Oparanoize, Nigeria player
We are a little down because we wanted to beat England. The coach and the whole team prepared hard for this game and we created a lot of goalscoring opportunities. Sadly our finishing let us down, and though we managed to get an equaliser we could have gone on to win the game. We want to go for more now.
Mexico and Japan also picked up a point each in Group B play with a thrilling 3-3 draw. Megumi Takase opened the scoring for Japan in the 19th minute, but Renae Cuellar would equalize for Mexico in the 31st minute. The Mexicans would then go ahead in the 41st minute on a Charlyn Corral goal and build a 3-1 lead when Nayeli Rangel scored in the 45th minute.
Japan would not give up though. Cuellar would score again, but this time in the wrong net. Her own goal gave Japan a lifeline and Mana Iwabuchi scored in the 88th minute to steal a point for Japan.
FINAL: Mexico 3-3 Japan
Roberto Medina, Mexico coach
We were full of energy in the first half. We worked hard and we got our reward up front. The whole team applied themselves really well, from the goalkeeper, who stopped everything, through to the forwards, who scored three goals in just 45 minutes. Our tempo dropped in the second half and Japan went on the attack. They needed a bit of luck to pull level and the own goal gave them all the encouragement they needed to go for the equaliser. In the end I think it was the right result.
Norio Sasaki, Japan coach
They went straight on the attack and that took us a little bit by surprise. We were a little fortunate to pull level but I think this is going to be a very tight group. Coming from behind to get a result like this is great for our morale though. At half-time I just tried to calm the players down, and little by little and goal by goal they managed to do it. They are a great group and a great team.
The least exciting game of the day was South Korea’s 4-0 win over Switzerland. Ji So Yun had a hat trick with goals in the 34th, 52nd and 64th minutes and Lee Hyun Young added a goal in the 42nd minute. In other news, Romanna Bachmann cannot do anything at the U-20 level either.
FINAL: Switzerland 0-4 South Korea
Choi In Cheul, Korea Republic coach
I am not surprised at the result. We have really been concentrating on this specific game and we’ve been putting into practice a lot of these situations in training. Ji So-Yun is very famous in South Korea and we can see her having a very big tournament. She always plays at a high level and she also knows how to look after herself and her body.
Yannick Schwery, Switzerland coach
I’m disappointed, not with my team because they played well but I’m disappointed with the result. It’s my duty now to prepare them for the next game.
Ji So-Yun, Korea Republic
Our team showed a good performance and we ahve a great position for the next two matches against USA and Ghana. I had not scored three goals in a match before but I had scored two in a game before.
Kim Hye-Ri, Korea Republic
Switzerland were not bad opponents but the tactics we made before the game worked very well. We have self-confidence now and we hope this win gives us a boost for the following games.
Goal of the Day: Ghana’s Elizabeth Cudjoe. There’s no question…just check out the highlights. Don’t overlook some of the goals from the Mexico-Japan match or South Korean Yun’s second goal either.
Switzerland-South Korea: 9,430
United States-Ghana: 9430
Average through eight games: 8,786
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