The United States of America (USA) will go head-to-head with Nigeria, and Germany will compete against Brazil in the first round of quarterfinal matches of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup at the D.Y.Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Friday.
It will be a clash of heavyweights when Group B topper Germany takes on Group A runner-up Brazil, in possibly the most delectable encounter of the quarterfinal stage.
Germany is the only team except for Japan which won all three of its group-stage games. Friederike Kromp’s side has been a menace in front of goal, scoring 11 times, only second after the USA, which has scored 13. Along with its attacking prowess, the Die Nationalelf (The National Eleven) has been equally efficient in maintaining a disciplined backline conceding just two goals in the group stages, one of which came from a set-piece in the match against Nigeria where Miracle Usani scored from a free-kick.
Germany has had seven different scorers in the three group-stage matches, but Brazil’s main threat will be Loreen Bender, who has been terrific in front of goal. With three goals, she is the joint-top scorer of the tournament along with Linda Caicedo of Columbia, Momoko Tanikawa of Japan, and Charlotte Kohler of the USA.
Brazil came into the tournament as one of the favourites. With a power-packed team containing the likes of Jhonson, Carol, Aline Gomes and Lara, the German defence is expected to have a difficult time coping with the fluid and expressive style of football that has worked wonders for the CONMEBOL Women’s U-17 title winner.
The Germans, who have defended well in the tournament, need to be cautious and maintain constant communication among the backline due to Brazil’s tendency to make tricky runs behind the defence. Till now, the Selecao has been heavily reliant on wingers Aline and Maria. They not only possess the ability to pull defenders wide but also thread accurate cut-backs to Jhonson in the centre - a route that the Brazilians will tend to take.
If Jhonson’s deadly finishing isn’t enough to cause worry, the Germans will also need to deal with Carol, who is likely to play just behind Jhonson in the No.10 role. Carol, who has an eye for making defence-splitting passes, also scored a goal against the USA in the group stages.
Challenge for Nigeria
Group A topper USA will be the favourite against Group B runner-up Nigeria. Natalia Astrain’s USA side, which has qualified for the knockout stages for the first time since 2008, is the highest-scoring team in the competition with 13 goals.
The USA has a well-balanced side with the ability to build attacks from the backline. With overlapping fullbacks like Gisele Thompson and Savannah King, the Americans will look to threaten the Nigerian backline with their extensive wingplay.
Onyeka Gamero and Taylor Suarez on the flanks have been excellent for the USA in the tournament and will have an able finisher in Melina Rebimbas at the centre. What makes the States even more threatening is their midfield powerhouse Charlotte Kohler who tends to make driving runs in the final third and get behind the backline quickly to contribute to attacking moves.
Despite being the weaker side on paper, it would be a mistake to negate Bankole Olowookere’s Nigeria. Nigeria won two of its group-stage matches and lost one. Ironically, the Flamingoes have a defender as their top-scorer in Miracle Usani, who has two goals in the tournament.
Over the group stages, Nigeria has shown boldness in its approach play- going for shots from ambitious distances, especially in its second group match against New Zealand which it won 4-0. Apart from Usani’s venomous right foot, the Flamingoes have good finishers in Amina Bello, Taiwo Afolabi and Edidiong Etim, and can pose a considerable threat to USA’s goal.
A day before USA's crucial quarters match against Nigeria, when preparations were supposed to be on at full flow, the USA team and staff were just idling away near Practice Pitch 2 at the CIDCO Training Ground in Khargah, Navi Mumbai.
The reason for this was an official alert by FIFA of possible lightning and the instruction was to not train until further notice. The United States team was originally supposed to start training at 4:30 PM today but the FIFA alert caused a considerable delay in training for the Stars and Stripes. While the sky was overcast, lightning was nowhere to be seen. USA started training about an hour later after receiving the go-ahead from the authorities.
USA's opponent Nigeria, who was also training in Navi Mumbai at a different venue, had a full training session as per schedule.