By John Egbokhan
The first of 21 days of football at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan starts today with four matches holding and it promises to have a party atmosphere, plenty of diversity and no little emotion.
Nigeria’s Falconets start their campaign against South Korea in Saimata, with the Africans hoping for a win.
Nigeria, who were runners-up in the last edition held in Germany, confront the side that finished just beneath them on the podium, in what promises to be a fascinating clash of styles. Falconets will be oozing with confidence having enjoyed a very impressive qualification campaign, in contrast to their Asian foes, who only secured their place because Japan were awarded the hosting rights.
Falconets’ forward, Francisca Ordega, said that the match against the fast-paced Koreans was going to give an idea of how far the Nigerians were going to go in the tournament.
“Our opening game against South Korea will give us an indication of how far we can go, and it could also give us a real confidence boost. Make no mistake, I haven’t come to Japan to admire the skyscrapers; I’m here to win the World Cup,” .
The match of the day on paper is the Japan-Mexico clash in Miyagi
With their senior team the reigning world champions and runners-up at the recent Women’s Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012, Japan’s U-20s are eager to build on that success and consolidate the nation’s place among the leading lights of the women’s game.
To do that, however, they will need to improve on past showings in this competition, where they have managed just two quarter-final appearances in three editions. Nor do Maexico have the proudest record at U-20 level, although they did reach their first knockout phase last time out in Germany, a feat they are determined to emulate this year.
In addition, the game will have special significance for the hosts and not least the population of Miyagi, one of the worst affected areas in last year’s devastating tsunami and earthquake. Moreover, it will be a perfect opportunity for Japan to again demonstrate their wonderful ability to come together and overcome adversity, with robust support from the home fans sure to motivate the team on their debut.