The United States U-17 women’s national team is in danger of exiting the World Cup at the group stage after a 2-1 upset loss to Ghana on Tuesday.
Second-half goals from Gifty Acheampong and Sandra Owusu-Ansah erased the United States’ early lead through a Frankie Tagliaferri goal, leaving the Americans in a precarious position heading into Saturday’s final group match.
“It was tough physically and emotionally, but we didn’t play well enough to win a World Cup match,” U.S. coach B.J. Snow said. “Congratulations to Ghana for turning it around. The pace of the game changed and we weren’t able to wrest the initiative back and dictate terms.
“We found it hard to cope with their direct style, and we tried to hold on for a point at the end, which wouldn’t have been a bad result against such a good team, but the penalty prevented us from doing that. We never underestimated Ghana. We’ve seen a lot of teams fall to pieces against Japan, which is what can happen when you take on the world champions. It didn’t mean to say that Ghana were weak. They had their backs to the wall and they absolutely had to win. That’s where we are now, with a game against Japan to come.”
Kiara Pickett was whistled for a hand ball in the box, conceding the PK which was converted by Owusu-Ansah in the 84th minute for the game-winning goal. (Click here for highlights of the match.)
“After losing 5-0 to Japan, we knew a defeat or even a draw would virtually knock us out,” Ghana coach Evans Adotey said. “We had to win at all costs, which is what we did, and against the USA as well. It keeps us in the hunt for a place in the group phase. In 2012 we reached the semi-finals and in 2014 the quarters. We had only one thing on our minds when we came here, and that was to get to the knockout phase. That’s what I told the players, despite the defeat to Japan. We’re here to get past the first round.”
The U.S. opened the World Cup with a 6-1 victory over Paraguay, which Ghana plays next. Should Ghana win that game as expected, it would have 6 points at the end of group play. Japan currently has 6 points; the U.S. has 3 points. Thus, the U.S. will likely have to defeat Japan to advance to the knockout stage. Japan is the defending U-17 Women’s World Cup champion.
The U.S. has struggled at the U-17 level. The Americans failed to even qualify for the last U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014 and 2010, and in 2012 they didn’t get out of the group, missing out on goal difference in a three-way tie with North Korea and France. The U.S. finished second in the inaugural 2008 event, losing to North Korea in the final.
Japan and the U.S. will play at noon ET on Saturday, with Paraguay and Ghana playing simultaneously. Goal difference is the first tiebreaker after the group stage. Should all three teams finish on 6 points, Japan is likely to have the best goal difference, followed by the U.S. and then Ghana, barring an outrageous score against Paraguay.
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