The 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup begins on Tuesday in Canada, with the stars of tomorrow fighting for a chance to claim the title of champion at the most senior of the youth-level FIFA World Cups.
Michelle French’s United States team enters as defending champion, but the team that beat Germany two years ago in Japan is largely gone, with only two players returning and a new coach. Such is life at this level, where players grow older and the best of them move on to their respective senior national teams.
Most casual fans likely won’t know many of the names at the tournament, but what’s important is remembering the stars who emerge from it. As FIFA.com points out, there is an endless list of players who are currently stars at the senior national team level who first shone at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (and what was previously known as the U-19 Women’s World Championship).
Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan is the most recent success story after successful 2010 and 2012 U-20 tournaments, as is her teammate, Alexandra Popp. In 2010, Popp exploded onto the scene, winning the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot en route to lifting Germany to the title. Marozsan won the Golden Ball in 2012.
The United States has seen many of young stars come through this tournament, including Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux, who played for Canada in 2004 before winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot for the champion United States and played again in 2010, a disappointing quarterfinal exit.
Marta and Christine Sinclair helped ring in the inaugural tournament in 2002, which also took place in Canada. Sinclair, now Canada’s all-time leading scorer, scored 10 goals in that tournament, winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot. Kara Lang also had a breakout tournament for Canada.
And now a new crop of youngsters look to rise to the occasion. Some have already seen success at the U-17 World Cup and have graduated to this U-20 edition.
France defender Griedge Mbock Bathy enters this U-20 World Cup having won the Golden Ball at the 2012 U-17 World Cup. Summer Green highlights a group of five Americans who featured at the 2012 U-17 World Cup.
Mbock Bathy even has her sights set on moving up from the U-17 tournament in 2012, to the U-20 tournament this year and the senior World Cup next year.
“It’s twice as motivating for me to have the chance to win the world title this year and nail my place down for Canada 2015,” Mbock Bathy told FIFA.com.
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