The nature of competitive sport ensures that the delight of one team tends to result in the dejection of another. And so it was that, as some players danced, sang and celebrated wildly at the conclusion of Canada 2014's group phase, other slumped tearfully to the turf.
Regrets? They had a few. But there was also a common thread of positivity throughout all eight eliminated sides, not to mention gratitude for a rewarding and invaluable education. "This experience has been priceless," said Garabet Avedissian, coach of the Costa Ricaside that finished bottom of Group D.
"Half of our team will still be eligible for the next U-20 World Cup and, physically, those players were not ready yet. But it was a risk taken with an eye on the future and, though we didn't reach the second round, we've given the players the means to do that in the future."
A similarly upbeat note was struck by Avedissian's Paraguaycounterpart, Julio Carlos Gomez, whose team finished just ahead of Las Ticas. "We are leaving very proud," he insisted. "We have some great young players and in a couple of years you are going to see these girls again in another World Cup."
Graduation the goalElsewhere, there was a realisation that, while victories are sweeter, defeats can often impart more valuable and enduring lessons. Indeed, while all homeward-bound teams would have preferred a longer stay, their coaches stressed that, as a development tournament, the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup will be judged on how many players graduate to senior sides.
“Of course the players are disappointed, but the big test is what they do next," said England's Mo Marley. "There would have been no use in us doing really well in this World Cup, then none of the players make it into the senior squad. This tournament has finished, but there's a bigger picture. The girls must remember that.”
That picture remained clear for Marianne Miettinen despite the Finlandboss's obvious dissatisfaction at losing narrowly in in all three of their Group A matches. "We came here to win all three games, so we are really disappointed," she said. "But our main goal was always to develop players for our senior team and I'm sure that all the players here in Canada will be playing big games in the future."
The man in charge of Mexico, Christopher Cuellar, was similarly convinced of his players' long-term prospects. "There are several already at the level needed to be part of the senior team," he said. "The A team coach (his father, Leonardo Cuellar) was here, he has seen them play and will take a decision. But my opinion is that we have players ready to be selected."
Satisfaction and realismThere were also teams for whom pride was their prevailing emotion, and justifiably so. Ghana, for example, were highly unfortunate not to qualify having won two of their three matches, and their coach was quick to acknowledge his team's evolution. “The people back home know that we have done very, very well in getting six points from nine," said Bashir Hayford. "Two years ago in Japan we couldn't even score a goal, so we have improved a lot. I think Ghana will be very proud of my team."
There was a level of contentment in defeat, too, for China PR's Jun Wang, who always knew that his team faced a tough task in a section containing the two great superpowers of women's football: Germany and USA. The experienced coach, whose side drew 5-5 with the Germans in one of the tournament's most thrilling encounters, said: “I’m quite satisfied with the performance of my players and, if I was marking them, I would give them an 80 [out of 100]. Playing in this tournament will be good for their future development."
There was, of course, no disgrace in losing out to the Americans and Germans, and Brazil's coach was realistic about the cultural gap that still exists. As Dorival Bueno said: "Even though we failed to win a single match, I actually think we did well. We played well in all three games against nations that are very strong in women's football. In these countries, girls are born to play football from an early age and that's not the case in Brazil. But we're getting stronger, and this tournament will help."
If the U-20 Women's World Cup can indeed strengthen and develop all of its participants - the also-rans as well as the victors - it will undoubtedly have served its lofty purpose.