|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Korea DPR||Brazil||Nigeria||Costa Rica|
Each group will stay at it’s home venue for the first two group match days, then travel to another venue for the final day, each of the two matches in a different city, played simultaneously.
The United States U-20s will begin group play in Edmonton, Alberta, facing group opponents Germany and Brazil there before moving to Moncton, New Brunswick to face China PR. The US is among those with the most travel: they will start in the most northern, most western venue, then travel 2,800 miles to the most eastern venue with three days off between games. If they win Group B they will then play a quarterfinal in Edmonton, 2,800 back west, with three days travel/rest time. The Group B runner-up, though, will only have to travel to Toronto – less than 1,000 miles back west – to face the winners of Group A. China faces the same travel ordeal, while Nigeria and England in Group C will be traveling the opposite direction, starting in Moncton before facing each other in Edmonton to finish their group play.
Group A is pretty open. Canada has gotten to the quarterfinals twice before, in 2002 and 2004. They also came in second in the final (to the US) in 2002. But they’ve been 3rd in their groups since, and failed to even qualify in 2010. However, they are the host this year, which is always a boost, and they stand a good chance of repeating their 2002 performance (the last time they hosted), while hoping for a different final result.
For Ghana, this is now the third time in a row they’ve qualified for the U-20 WWC; their last two results were 3rd and 4th in their group, though. Finland has never before qualified for the U-20 Women’s World Cup, so history is not on their side. In this group, however, they must feel they’re Cup isn’t already over.
Korea DPR – aka North Korea – would have to be the clear favorites in Group A; in last four U-20 WWCs, they’ve won their group or been group runner-up. However, while they won the Cup in 2004, and came in second in 2006, the last two tournaments they’ve lost in the quarterfinals, so they are by no means shoe-ins.
Group B is the proverbial group of death: USA has won the U-20 WWC three times and Germany has won it two times – the last Cup final in 2012 was between those two nations – while Brazil has made the semifinals three times and China PR has twice. However… the results for those last two nations all came in the first three U-20 WWCs; since then, Brazil made the quarterfinals in 2008 but placed 3rd in their group the last two times, while China PR has placed 3rd in their group two of the last three times, and failed to even qualify in 2010. Germany and USA could determine first and second place between them in the opening group game, but win or lose, will have to make sure they don’t looked past the rest of the group; it is possible (however improbable) to win that opening match and still fail to make the quarterfinals.
Group C is another tight group, but this one of also-rans: all four teams have made the quarterfinals at least twice at the U-20 level, but only Korea Republic – aka South Korea – and Nigeria have ever made the semifinals. Korea Republic did it once, coming in third in 2010, while Nigeria have done so in the last five Cups, while also coming in 2nd in the final in 2010, and fourth in 2012. Notably, of the combined 11 quarterfinal appearances by these four teams, there have only been 3 out-right group winners: Nigeria twice and Mexico once… and Mexico only won their group on goal difference.
Nigeria would have to be the favorite of Group C, with Korea Republic a narrow second. Either England or Mexico could take it with one good result against the other two, though.
Group D is the “easy” group, at least as far as the rest of the field is concerned; they will still have a tough time determining a winner among themselves. Of the four – Costa Rica, France, New Zealand and Paraguay – only New Zealand even qualified for the last U-20 WWC… and they are pretty much guaranteed a World Cup spot by dint of being the biggest team in the Oceania region. Paraguay has never before qualified. Costa Rica has only qualified once before, in 2010, when they finished last in their group. But while France wasn’t in the last tournament, and failed to make the quarterfinals in 2010, they had a very promising run 2006-08: in 2006 they made the quarterfinals, and in ’08 made the semifinals, eventually placing fourth in the tournament.
Of the four here, France is maybe the favorite. Whoever wins Group D, though, it will be their first time in U-20 Women’s Cup history, and any of them could make the top two.
The first group matches will kick off August 5th in Toronto and Edmonton. The final will be played in Montreal on the 24th.