Monday 14 November 2016, 12:45

Favourites make faltering start

THE DAY REPLAYED – The old adage that ‘the first step is the hardest’ certainly rang true for the competition’s two most successful teams on the second matchday of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016. Defending champions Germany were made to work hard for their opening win against tournament debutantes Venezuela, even conceding an equaliser before driving home their advantage.

Meanwhile, USA were forced to settle for a draw after failing to pick their way through an immaculately organised French defence. New Zealand made the most of this result by beating Ghana with a last-minute strike to claim top spot in Group C, while Mexico also got off to a flying start by recording a comfortable win over Korea Republic.

Results Group C France 0-0 USA Ghana 0-1 New Zealand Group D Germany 3-1 Venezuela Mexico 2-0 Korea Republic

Goal of the day Mariana Speckmaier’s name is now permanently etched in Venezuelan football’s history books after the striker scored her country’s first goal at an U-20 Women’s World Cup – and against none other than defending champions Germany. After collecting a perfectly weighted pass in the 26th minute, Speckmaier remained calm and collected in front of her opponents’ goal to slot home the equaliser from close range. Although the match ultimately ended in defeat for the young forward and her team-mates, their joy at scoring this momentous goal was clear for all to see.

Memorable moments Olla frustrates Ghana: Although substitute Tayla Christensen’s late strike made her the match-winner for New Zealand, Nadia Olla played just as great a role in the Oceanian champions’ opening victory. At just 16-years-old, the Kiwi goalkeeper delivered a sensational performance between the posts, defusing several precarious situations along the way. Arguably her most spectacular save of the evening came in the 70th minute, when Ghanaian midfielder Wasila Diwura-Soale broke clear from a counter-attack, only for Olla to throw herself decisively in the way of a seemingly inevitable goal and spark disbelief on the African bench.

“DC7”: A player has been setting the pitch alight in the No.7 shirt while producing a succession of stepovers and effortless high-speed dribbles – but for once we are not talking about Cristiano Ronaldo. Fleet-footed French winger Delphine Cascarino proved her talent in impressive style against USA and provoked murmurs of appreciation from the crowd on several occasions. While the performance was not enough to earn her team the full three points, Cascarino could at least console herself with taking home the Live Your Goals Player of the Match award.

Joy and sorrow are never far apart: Germany striker Lea Schuller found herself on an emotional rollercoaster in the match against Venezuela, scoring to give her team a 3-1 lead before leaving the pitch with a suspected serious knee injury just 20 minutes later. “It has certainly put a damper on the win,” Schuller’s coach Maren Meinert said after the game.

The stat 115 –Germany’s 115 goals makes them the highest-scoring team in the history of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. This achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that USA and Korea DPR are a distant second and third in the rankings with 82 and 64 goals respectively.

The words "It was a complicated match with difficult conditions. We knew that USA were a strong athletic team, but we did well and had many occasions. I'm satisfied by the way we managed this game with good collective attitude but I wish we converted our opportunities and be more efficient," Gilles Eyquem, France coach.

Next matchday

Wednesday 16 November Group A Korea DPR-Brazil, 16.00 (Sir John Guise Stadium) Papua New Guinea-Sweden, 19.00 (Sir John Guise Stadium)

Group B Spain-Japan, 16.00 (Bava Park) Nigeria-Canada, 19.00 (Bava Park)

(All times local)