THE DAY REPLAYED - When the draw for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012 was made all eyes were on Group D, where Germany and USA, two of the strongest nations in the women’s game, were pitched together. Confirming their status as favourites, the big two both negotiated their way to the semi-finals before chalking up comprehensive wins on Tuesday to tee up their first meeting in the final of the competition.

Both sides will go in search of their third world title in the age category, the Germans hoping to retain the trophy they won on home soil two years ago. The USA were the first to check into Saturday’s showpiece, scoring a goal in each half to see off Nigeria, while Germany were at their ruthless best against hosts Japan, hitting three early goals to silence a vociferous 28,000 home crowd. rounds up the highlights of an exciting day of semi-final action at Japan 2012.

Nigeria 0-2 USA
Japan 0-3 Germany

Goal of the day
Japan 0-1 Germany, Melanie Leupolz 1
Confidence was high among Japan fans going into this game, but it only took the Germans one minute to dent home hopes of victory. Receiving the ball in midfield, Dzsenifer Marozsan shook of the attentions of two opponents with some fancy footwork and played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Leupolz, stationed on the edge of the area. The midfielder held her nerve to stroke the ball past the advancing Sakiko Ikeda and just inside the post.

Memorable moments
A fine line
Nigeria will look back on two excellent chances that came their way against the USA and ponder the fine line that separates success and failure. Francisca Ordega was the first to go close, lifting the ball coolly over keeper Bryane Heaberlin only to see it drift agonisingly wide. Team-mate Desire Oparanozie then found the back of the net from the edge of the penalty box but had her joy cut short when she was ruled to have been marginally offside.

A unique experience
Tuesday’s first semi-final was a special one for USA’s Chioma Ubogagu, whose grandparents are Nigerian and who regularly goes back to visit them. In an interview on U.S. Soccer’s website, she described what the game meant to her: “It’s definitely unique to get this opportunity as life takes some amazing turns,” said Ubogagu. “Who knows? I maybe could have been playing on that team. I know I’m probably the only on our team who can pronounce all their names.”

Settling old scores
USA and Germany’s wins were made all the sweeter by the fact they avenged painful defeats to the same opposition at recent tournaments. The Americans atoned for their penalty shoot-out exit to the Nigerians at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010, while the Germans went some way to making up for their quarter-final loss to Japan on home soil in last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Living up to their word
September is Fair Play month in world football and today’s two semi-finals were very much in keeping with the campaign FIFA has been promoting since 1988. Before their matches the captains of all four teams each gave a short address in support of respect and fair play, and posed for photos together. And when the ball got rolling, the four sides lived up to the pledges they had made, with not a single yellow card being shown in 180 minutes of football. Only two previous semi-finals in the competition’s history have been caution-free.  

The stat
- USA’s win over Nigeria was their ninth consecutive match without defeat against African opposition in a major women’s tournament (FIFA Women’s World Cup, FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament). The Americans have won seven of those games and drawn the other two, one of which nevertheless ended in their elimination from Germany 2010 at the hands of the Nigerians on penalties.

The words
“The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing. It was a pleasure to play in this stadium today. The fans sang the whole game and supported their teams over the whole 90 minutes. That shows that they know what football is. It was a game between two great football nations. Thanks to the fans.” Maren Meinert, Germany coach

The schedule (all times local) 
8 September 2012
Third place match
Japan v Nigeria, Tokyo, 15.30
Germany v USA, Tokyo, 19.20