U20 World Cup count­down

Our pre­view to the Port Moresby women’s soc­cer tour­na­ment

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With women’s sport gain­ing mo­men­tum around the world, there has never been a bet­ter time for Pa­pua New Guinea to host the eighth FIFA Women’s Un­der 20 World Cup. The best young tal­ent women’s foot­ball (soc­cer) has got to of­fer will be on show in Port Moresby from Novem­ber 13, when PNG takes on Brazil in the open­ing match un­der lights at the newly re­fur­bished Sir John Guise Sta­dium. PNG has earned its place in the com­pe­ti­tion be­cause it is the host na­tion and will go into the com­pe­ti­tion as an un­der­dog. The 16 teams in­clude peren­nial win­ners Ger­many and the United States, who have each won the global cham­pi­onship three times. Only Korea DPR has come be­tween them when it won in 2006 in Rus­sia. The young wo­man re­garded as the world’s best in her age group, Swe­den’s Stina Black­ste­nius, who shone in the UEFA Un­der 19 cham­pi­onships last year, will be there.

She dom­i­nated in the fi­nal, pro­duc­ing some in­ci­sive runs to score two goals and as­sist in the third for her team’s 3–1 de­mo­li­tion of Spain to fin­ish that tour­na­ment with six goals from four ap­pear­ances.

Her per­for­mance trig­gered Spain’s coach Jorge Vilda to com­ment that it was like play­ing against Cris­tiano Ron­aldo or Lionel Messi.

“You just can’t keep a player like that quiet for 90 min­utes,” Vilda said. “If one player is so much bet­ter than the rest, you just can’t stop them.”

We’re try­ing to go from hav­ing zero ex­pe­ri­ence to gain­ing a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in a short amount of time. –PNG COACH

Fans are in store for some­thing spe­cial from Black­ste­nius again in Novem­ber. Swe­den, mak­ing only its sec­ond ap­pear­ance in the Un­der 20 World Cup, is in Group A along with PNG, so their match on Novem­ber 16 will be one to savour. The so-called ‘pool of death’ for this World Cup would ap­pear to be Group B with Canada, Ja­pan, Nige­ria and Spain fight­ing it out. Nige­ria (ranked No. 4) in the world at this age level, made the fi­nals in 2010 and 2014; Spain showed that by reach­ing the Un­der 19 UEFA fi­nal last year it will be a real threat; Canada (No. 8) was run­ner-up in 2002 when it hosted the tour­na­ment and a quar­ter-fi­nal­ist in 2014; while Ja­pan (No. 9), fin­ished third in 2012. Sup­port for the tour­na­ment is quickly build­ing in PNG, par­tic­u­larly from the foot­ball-mad prov­inces of Morobe, Madang and Milne Bay.

Since the suc­cess­ful host­ing of the OFC Na­tions Cup and the Tri-Na­tions se­ries be­tween PNG, Ja­pan and the US, in May, World Cup fever is on the march.

At grass roots level, FIFA re­cently launched legacy pro­grams ‘Live Your Goals’ and ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ which em­braces schools, train­ers and the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion of Port Moresby, and will en­dure be­yond the three weeks of the tour­na­ment.

Or­gan­is­ers are hop­ing that the play­ers from the vis­it­ing teams can be seen as role mod­els whose sto­ries in­spire PNG’s young women and girls to ex­cel in their re­spec­tive ca­reers.

David Chung, PNG Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent, says gen­der equal­ity re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant so­cial chal­lenge in the coun­try.

“We hope this tour­na­ment will cre­ate fur­ther aware­ness and pro­mote change to­wards a more egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety,” he says.

PNG coach Lisa Cole says her in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers gained a lot of knowl­edge in their matches against Ja­pan and the US, in which they lost by 10-goal mar­gins.

“We’re try­ing to go from hav­ing zero ex­pe­ri­ence to gain­ing a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in a short amount of time.”

The team will be work­ing hard with at least 15 matches lined up in tours of Aus­tralia and New Zealand dur­ing Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber in the leadup to the World Cup.

Mean­while, PNG’s na­tional em­blem, the colour­ful bird of par­adise, is the of­fi­cial mas­cot for the World Cup, and has been nick­named Susa, which means sis­ter.

For the full sched­ule of matches and more de­tails about the tour­na­ment see fifa.com/u20­wom­ensworld­cup/

Best foot for­ward ... Un­der 20 FIFA Women’s World Cup ac­tion from the pre­vi­ous toruna­ment two years ago (left); Susa, the mas­cot for the PNG event, steps out in Port Moresby (above).

Win­ners ... the tri­umphant Ger­man team in 2014 (above); PNG coach Lisa Cole with her squad of play­ers.

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