THE DAY REPLAYED –The third edition of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup is up and running after a day of extremes on the pitch, with Korea DPR rattling in eleven unanswered strikes in their defeat of Gambia before the goals dried up in a 0-0 stalemate between USA and France in Lankaran.
Those games were then followed by a more subdued and evenly contested 1-1 draw between Canada and Nigeria, which in turn gave way to a thrillingly colourful spectacle a few hours later as the Cirque du Soleil and the incomparable J-Lo headlined a superb opening ceremony.
It was then the turn of hosts Azerbaijan to tackle Colombia, and the South American side sealed a 4-0 triumph to end a day high on quality and rich in emotion.
*Group A *
Nigeria 1-1 Canada
Azerbaijan 0-4 Colombia
*Group B *
France 0-0 USA
Korea DPR 11-0 Gambia
Goal of the day
*Azerbaijan 0-2 Colombia, Dayana Castillo (20) *
Colombia's captain broke the home side's resistance with a pair of goals in the space of just three minutes, and her second was a marvel to behold. Unmarked on the left side of the area, Castillo curled in a splendid shot which struck the near post before crossing the goalline, combining clinical precision and aesthetic appeal to double her side's advantage.
*Goal queens *
It may have taken 18 minutes for the tournament's first goal to find the net at the 8km Stadium in Baku, but Choe Yun-Gyong's breakthrough effort for Korea DPR merely opened the floodgates against Gambia. The African hopefuls soon found themselves 6-0 down at the interval and 11-0 losers at full time, as both Ri Un-Sim and Ri Kyong-Hyang hit hat-tricks for their rivals. Overall, Korea DPR managed 33 shots in total plus 12 corners, on their way to posting the heaviest victory in the history of FIFA women's tournaments.
There is clearly little to choose between France and USA at U-17 level after the two sides played out a goalless stalemate to go with their 1-1 draw during the group stage in 2008. Their reunion at Lankaran Stadium was only the second match in the competition's history to end without a goal, the first having been Canada v Denmark in 2008 – and in fact the tournament's real draw experts are Canada themselves after they recorded their third.
Queens of atmosphere*
Nigeria would have no doubt preferred taking points on the pitch against Canada, but they can at least console themselves with having made the strongest impression off it. The Flamingoes made a memorable entrance ahead of their first game in Baku, singing and dancing as they trooped off their team bus and headed towards their dressing room. And there was a notable party atmosphere at the 8km Stadium too, where the youthful crowd came colour-coordinated in red, blue and green to recreate the Azerbaijani flag in the stands. Just to reinforce their message, the fans then unfurled a banner full of pride, hope and goodwill: "Welcome to the best FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup ever."
Queens of the dance floor
Speaking of ambience, there was a genuine intensity at the Tofig Bahramov Stadium for the home side's opening encounter with Colombia as 30,000 supporters flocked to the ground hoping to witness an upset. Hidden away in the bowels of the stadium, meanwhile, the two sets of players engaged in a dance and karaoke contest before taking to the field. Perhaps galvanised by the lyrics of "On The Floor", sung by J-Lo before kick-off ("Let the rhythm change your world on the floor/Live your life and stay young on the floor"), the hosts then gave a solid account of themselves at the start of the match, only for the queens of the dance floor from Colombia to come out on top.
9 – The figure inscribed on the back of the shirt worn by Canada's Amandine Pierre-Louis, who found the net against Nigeria. The Saint-Leonard forward thus became the 42nd player parading that number to register at a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, she and her fellow No9s having notched 17 per cent of the tournament's total goals since 2008. Not the most eye-catching statistic perhaps, but – more significantly – Pierre-Louis' effort was also the 250th in the history of the competition.
"U-17 football has only been alive in Azerbaijan for two years and this match was the result of all the hard work that has taken place. Although we lost the match I want to congratulate my team on the fact they fought to the end and never gave up."
Sissy Raith, Azerbaijan coach
The schedule (all times local)
*Sunday 23 September 2012
Group C *
Mexico-New Zealand, 15.00
*Group D *
Uruguay-China PR, 18.00