Ghana’s Black Princesses made their debut at the Under-20 Women’s World Cup at the 2010 event in Germany.
Rather than be overawed by the competition, the Princesses made a bold start, drawing 1-1 with then defending champions, USA in their opening game. They lost to South Korea in the next game and though they came back strongly with a 2-0 win over Switzerland, it was not enough to push them into the knockout stage.
The Princesses may not be a known name at this level compared to African compatriots, Nigeria but have gained a good measure of experience playing in the WWC. Of the 21 players who have been named for the Japan tournament, only three - Nana Ama Asantewaa, Veronica Appiah and Faustina Ampah are without any WWC experience with the rest being products of either the 2008, 2010 editions of the Under-17 WWC or the Under-20 WWC in Germany and this could make a big impact on their second outing at the Japan event.
The arrival of an equally experience coach, Robert Sackey, who has spent most of coaching days with women’s football has been a good blend which has provided positive results so far.
This experience and the quality in skills and depth of talent of the players were on display during the qualifiers. They beat Namibia 10-0 in a two-leg opening qualifier, followed it up with another home and away win against a formidable South Africa side.
They rounded their qualification up with another emphatic 7-2 win over Tunisia, the only side to have scored against Ghana in the qualifiers.
During their preparations, the Ghanaians played two high-profile friendlies against Nigeria winning the first leg 3-1 and losing the second 4-3 in the matches played in Accra within two days.
Throughout their campaign, the Princesses have shown they have a knack for goals. Indeed, at the 2010 competition, they scored five goals, which was quite impressive for first-timers. Unfortunately, they showed a porous defence then, conceding as many goals. This time, however, they seem to have worked and improved on that aspect of their game having conceded only six goals in both their qualifying and international friendly matches. Though the likes of Elizabeth Addo, Alice Eva Danso, Priscilla Saahene as well as Deborah Afriyie all have what it takes to carry Ghana to their dreamland, the biggest responsibility will be shouldered by US-based Florence Dadson who will spearhead the attack and with her experience in both New Zealand 2008 for the U-17 WWC and the Germany 2010 U-20 WWC, this will be Dadson’s time to prove she’s come of age.
It also remains to be seen if the defence which will be without tireless and big-hearted Edem Atovor, ruled out by injury, will be able to withstand the shots from defending champions, Germany, USA and China who they play at the group stages.
Coach: Robert Sackey
China was once considered a powerhouse in women’s football but at the moment, they live on past glory. Something might have gone wrong for the nation that once held the world spell-bound in women’s football to all of sudden not even considered as favourites when they show up for international competition.
Just as their senior team, former world champions have struggled to impress in the last four years, the other teams are also feeling that effect.
Though they started strongly, finishing as runners-up in the 2004 and 2006 editions of the U-20 WWC, the Rosebuds as the Chinese Under-20 team are called have since failed to match up that record. At the last edition, they could not make it past the Asian qualifying stages, dwarfed by Japan, South Korea and North Korea in the AFC qualifying campaign.
This might have dawned on the Chinese who have tried everything including recruiting a foreign coach for the national teams, to reassess their development for the right antidote.
Thankfully, they seem to have identified the cause and managed it in a way that as resulted in their return to the WWC at this level. That they held winners of the AFC tournament, Japan in their opening game and also drew with South Korea both in a 1-1 as well as their 3-1 win over Australia gives a very clear indication that the Rosebuds are back to reclaim their places in women’s football.
By their own admission, they hae used the past two years preparing for this competition and the outcome of their participation in the Japan tournament will be the yardstick by which the Chinese will assess their rebirth. This certainly gives the other contenders something to worry about as when they set out to achieve something, they go the full hog.
Coach: Yin Tiesheng
The Germans are the real deal when it comes to women’s football at any level and they come to Japan as the defending champions with just one mission: Retain the title. They first won it in 2004 during the competition held inâ€ˆThailand and waited for six years before winning it again. But now that they have it, they are unwilling to relinquish it.
Two years ago, led by Alexandra Popp and Dzsenifer Marozsan, the Germans took the competition by storm scoring 20 goals and conceding only five to win the title and even though Popp and Marozsan are no longer with the team, they still boast of some very good players who have stepped up to the occasion comfortably.
An all round team - a very good goalkeeper, solid defence, fluid midfield and a very sharp forward, the Germans are one of the hot favourites for the Japan tournament. The team have seen a massive change from the one that won the title two years ago but their focus and dream remain the same: Win, win, win and they have already shown their intent of living up to expectation.
During the European Under-19 Championship last year, the Germans remained unbeaten and unbelieveably thumped their strongest European rivals, Norway, 8-1 in the final. In Japan they will come with the intention of topping their group and with the experience of Marozsan, one of the few players retained from the 2010 squad, only they hold the key to either their success or downfall.
Coach: Maren Meinert
Like group contenders Germany, the United States of America have a very proud history not only at the Under-20 level but in women’s football in general. Except for the 2010 competition where they were eliminated at the quarter-finals by Nigeria, the United States have played in almost every semi-final match of the competition since the inaugural event in 2002.
Indeed, the USA won the first edition of the competition when it was launched as an Under-19 Championship beating the hosts, Canada. Four years later, they were crowned champions again at Chile 2008. Before that second crown, the Americans finished a third-place finish in 2004 and Russia in 2006.
Germany 2010 was the worst outing for the Americans who seem to have picked up the pieces and moved on.
Not much have changed about the team as the core of the players who featured in Germany will still be on duty in Japan and are determined to make amends. Beaten at the world, the USA are pretty much invincible on their continent, CONCACAF and picked one of the three slots from CONCACAF by beating all the competition and Canada in the final to lift the trophy and a ticket to Japan.
The attention USA gives to the development of youth football and particularly the women’s game means at any given time, new stars emerge and having produced several stars who have gone on to dazzle at the senior stage, the youngsters like Maya Hayes, Morgan Brian and Crystal Dunn, who will be flying the red stars and blue strips in Japan will take their turn to shine.
Coach: Steve Swanson