The U.S. suffered heartbreak in Azerbaijan today, exiting the U-17 Women World Cup on goal difference.
Billed as the Group of Death, Group B saw Korea DPR, USA, and France all level on four points before today’s game. With goal difference the only way of separating the three sides, the Stars and Stripes knew a win was the only way of guaranteeing them safe passage into the quarters.
And they got off to the perfect start scoring after only two minutes. Amber Munerlyn receiving the ball out on the right wing, and picking out Darian Jenkin with a pinpoint floated pass to the back point that the Sparta Fc forward dispatched with ease.
The celebrations were short-lived, however, with North Korea responding just 72 seconds later—beating the record set by France three days ago when they equalized against the North Koreans after only 80 seconds—Ri Un Sim notching her fifth goal of the tournament, taking Jo So Yon’s cross expertly down on her chest, before turning cleverly in the box and finishing past U.S. keeper Jane Campbell.
With the game now level, the U.S. knew they would have to score again to leave their fate in their own hands, as the chances of the Gambian defense conceding more than six goals seemed relatively high—Gambia had already conceded 17 goals in their two games at Azerbaijan 2012.
Yet it was Korea DPR that was making headway and looking the more likely to score. Ri Un Sim in particular had the U.S. holding their breath when her 25-yard strike took the paint off the top corner post just after the hour. Five minutes later she was at it again, this time turning well in the area before hitting the side netting with her effort.
With time fast running out, the stars and stripes threw caution to the wind, and captain Morgan Andrews came agonizingly close to sending her side through to the quarters. The Stars of Massachusetts midfielder struck a peach of a free-kick that had everyone including the Korea Keeper beaten, but the shot rattled off the bar and Korea DPR cleared the danger.
The U.S.’s elimination was especially heartbreaking as they finished the group without a loss, and level on points with both Korea DPR and France, and conceded only one goal in the whole tournament. How cruel a fate that the goals they scored against Gambia being the only means of separating them. In fact, France’s 10-3 win over Gambia meant the U.S. missed out on a place in the quarters by a goal difference margin of just two.
Meanwhile, Nigeria and Canada both won their final group games to progress from Group A into the quater-finals respectively. A brace from Halimatu Ayinde and a late own-goal gave Nigeria a 3-0 victory over Colombia. While a goal from Valerie Sanderson right after half-time helped Canada edge past hosts Azerbaijan 1-0 to move into the quarters.
The fates of the teams in Group C and D will be decided tomorrow.