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The Week in Women's Football: U17 World Cup down to final four; New Zealand stars in Oceania Nations Cup;

This week we look at the results from the 16 team FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Group Stage and Quarterfinals in Uruguay, as well as the group stage from the 8 team Oceania Football Confederations' Nations Cup in New Caledonia.

2018 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay

In Group A, Ghana and New Zealand were undefeated until their last match on November 20 in Montevideo, when Ghana bested New Zealand 2-0. Ghana finished with 9 points and advanced as Group winners while New Zealand finished in second with 6 points. Finland tied host Uruguay in the last match, leaving both teams even on 1 point, but Finland finished in third with a better goal differential (-3 to -6) with Uruguay scoring 2 goals (versus 8 against), none more important than Esperanza Pizarro's (National Football Club) tying goal in the 79th minute, which should be a finalist for goal of the tournament as Pizarro took a ball that had been bounding around the penalty area, pivoted and arrowed it into the corner. Ghana has looked very strong so far this tournament; Mukarama Abdulai (Northern Ladies FC) leads the Golden Boot race with 6 goals, double the total of second place Claudia Pina of Spain. Ghana finished third in the 2012 edition in Azerbaijan and has made the quarterfinals for the third consecutive U-17 Finals.

For New Zealand, advancing to the quarterfinals was a historic achievement. The Football Ferns have participated in all six U-17 World Championships, but this is the first time that they advanced from the Group Stage, and in 15 previous Finals games had only won twice, a total they achieved this tournament in their first two games.

In Group B, Japan and Mexico finished in a 1-1 tie on November 20, with both advancing on 5 points. Japan won the group with a superior goal difference (+6 to +1). The key win for Mexico was the 1-0 defeat of Brazil in the second game on November 16 in Maldonado. Brazil blasted South Africa in their last match 4-1 on November 20, but Mexico's late goal by Alison Gonzalez (Tigres of Mexico) in the 63rd minute in the Japan match put them through, reversing their U-20 WWC experience this summer in France, when Mexico was leading England 1-0 at halftime of their final group game but crashed out of the competition after an astounding 6-1 defeat. Mexico has made the quarterfinals now for the third consecutive U-17 Finals.

For Brazil, with so much ridding on Marta and the senior team next summer in France, some analysis and reflection time has to be spent on the youth stage (Brazil finished last in the same group as England and Mexico this summer at the U-20 WWC Finals) as the U-17's have failed to advance from the group stage in 2018 and 2016, after not qualifying at all in 2014.South Africa had 1 point from their 0-0 opening day tie with Mexico on November 13.

In Group C, this was the tightest and most interesting group as Germany, Korea DPR, the Americans and Cameroon entered their final game tied on points with 3. Germany had the only positive goal difference (+2) while Cameroon had (-2) and the other two sides were even with a 0 goal difference. The shock of the group was Korea DPR defeating the U.S. 3-0 in their second game on November 17, though the nation won this event two years ago in Jordan. Germany surprisingly fell to Cameroon 1-0 in their second game, also on the 17th. Germany and Korea DPR advanced to the final stages as Germany blasted the U.S. 4-0 on November 21, despite the Americans having double the advantage in shots (26-13) in a wide open match, while Korea DPR fell behind to an early goal by Cameroon's Alice Kameni (AS Green City Filles de Yaounde) in the 6th minute, but won through goals in the 45th minute by Kyong Hui KO (Ryomyong Sports Club) and in the 75th minute by Su Jong RI (Naegohyang Women's Football Club). Korea DPR is still alive with a chance to make their fourth final in six tournaments, with two wins in 2008 and 2016, as well as a penalty kick loss to France in 2012 in Azerbaijan

With Mexico's late fightback against Japan, two of the three CONCACAF representatives advanced to the knockout stage (Canada moved on from Group D—see below), compared to none at the U-20 Women's World Cup this summer, when the U.S., Mexico and Haiti all fell at the group stage, with Haiti actually looking the most competitive of the three as true underdogs in the first women's finals at any level for a Caribbean nation. The U.S. will have to do some strategic planning for their youth development, particularly at the U-17 level. After finishing second at the first U-17 WWC in 2008 in New Zealand, they did not qualify for the 2010 tourney, fell at the first round stage in 2012, did not qualify in 2014 in Costa Rica and failed to advance from the group stage in 2016 and again this year. Head Coach Mark Carr, who has been with the federation coaching a number of youth national teams and development teams for 6 years, after a head coaching stint at the University of San Francisco and an assistant position with powerhouse UCLA, will probably not be with this age group level for qualifying for the next U-17 Women's World Cup in 2020. Some say that youth national team results don't correlate to national team progress and the U.S. are defending WWC champions and three time winners—the most of any nation—but it does speak to the future. The Americans, so long the model for the rest of the world, might want to look at what some of these other countries are doing at the youth level. Spain would be a good country to model off of, having qualified for the 2015 and 2019 Women's World Cups at the senior level, they have a vibrant national league with 16 teams that is attracting top talent from all over the world, finished second to Japan in this summer's U-20 and made the quarterfinals in Uruguay undefeated after a convincing win over Canada (see below).

In Group D, after two games Canada had 6 points, Spain 4 and Colombia 1, while Korea Republic was bottom on 0 points. Spain blasted Canada by a 5-0 scoreline on November 21, though the Canadians rested anyone with a yellow card and full national teamer Jordan Huitema (who had two goals in two games) also did not play as she was suspended with a red card in their previous match. Spain finished first with 7 points, Canada was second with 6, and Colombia tied Korea Republic 1-1 to finish third on two points to Korea Republic's single point.

The quarterfinals were a delight to watch, with a number of surprises and tension throughout, as three of the four matches went to penalty kicks, In the first day of the quarterfinals on November 24, Japan faced New Zealand and while Amelia Abbott (Nelson in New Zealand) scored in the 17th minute to give the underdogs the lead, the Little Nadeshiko tied the match when Momoka Kinoshita (NTV Menina) shot on goal but Football Ferns defender Hannah Mackay-Wright (Forrest Hill Milford United) bundled the ball into her own goal when trying to clear the ball in the 31st minute. With penalty kicks done immediately at the end of 90 minutes in youth World Cups, New Zealand advanced 4-3 on penalties (with goalkeeper Anna Leat (East Coast Bays in New Zealand) scoring the crucial final goal on her side's fifth attempt and has now advanced to a semifinals for the first time ever at a women's World Cup at any level, also a first for the Oceania Football Confederation. Spain also knocked the reigning champions Korea DPR out 3-1 on penalties after a tight 1-1 draw, with Claudia Pina's (FC Barcelona) goal in the 72nd minute cancelled out by Kong Yong Kim's goal (Naegohyang Women's FC) two minutes later.

On November 25, Ghana played Mexico to a 2-2 tie in a pulsating match before Mexico won on penalties (4-2). Ghana twice had the lead and Mukarama Abdulai scored her seventh goal of the tournament to give her side the lead, but the goal of the tournament has to be when Mexican captain Nicole Perez (Chivas of Mexico) scored her second goal of the game in the 82nd minute from a free kick beyond 30 meters which went over the Ghanaian wall and high into the net to deadlock the score. Mexico has never advanced to a FIFA semifinals at any level in the women's game and will face Canada. Canada advanced with a 1-0 win over Germany the same day after a late goal by Jordan Huitema with seven minutes to go. Canada, coached by former international Rhian Wilkinson—who attended the University of Tennessee, played for the Boston Breakers in 2013 and briefly for the Portland Thorns in 2015 after seven years in Norway with Team Strommen and was a long-time Canadian international—will play Mexico in the semifinals. The Mexicans defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 earlier this year 2-1 in the semifinals of the CONCACAF U-17 qualifiers.

New Zealand will play Spain in the other semifinal on November 28.

2018 Oceania Nations Cup

In Group A, hosts New Caledonia was cruising 3-0 over Tahiti in their first game on November 18 before Tahiti pulled 2 goals back, but New Caledonia scored a late goal to win 4-2. Seventeen-year-old Jacki Pahoa (AS Academie Feminine) scored two for the home side within three minutes with singles by Kamene Xowi (ES 3 Cities Foot Poitiers of France) and Aurelie Lalie (U.S. Boulongne of France), while Tahiti's Tahia Tamarii (AS Papara FC) and Ninauea Hioe (AS Pirae) scored first half goals. Papua New Guinea blasted Samoa 5-0 in their opening game of the tournament. For Papua New Guinea, Meagen Gunemba (Poro FC) scored a hat trick with singles from Yvonne Gabong and Rayleen Bauelua (both Leilam FC) giving the regional power a great start to the tournament.

Papua New Guinea faced off with hosts New Caledonia on November 21 for a key match between the two winners on day one These two sides have a history as PNG defeated the Cagoues for the 2011 and 2015 Pacific Games Gold Medal, a key regional competition. Along with the Tahiti versus Samoa game there were lots of goals in these two Group A matches—a total of 18 goals. Tahiti and Samoa tied 5-5 with seven of the ten goals coming in the first half. Carole Teotahi (AS Tac) scored a hat trick for Tahiti while Sina Satarak (Hawaii Bulls of the U.S.) scored a hat trick for Samoa, with two of her goals coming within the last 11 minutes.

PNG helped book a trip to the semifinals with a 6-2 win over New Caledonia. Marie Kaipu (Hekari United) scored 5 goals. Kaipu scored a deuce along with teammate Ramona Padio's single (21 Lakers FC) to stake PNG to a 3-0 lead at the half. Kim Maguire (Wai BOP Football, New Zealand) scored in the 48th minute to cut the lead to 4-1 but Kaipu scored her final two for Papua New Guinea before an injury time goal from substitute Sidney Gatha (AS Communale Boulouparis) for the New Caledonia side.

On November 24, Papua New Guinea defeated Tahiti 3-1 to finish Group A undefeated, though it wasn't as easy as one thought, with Tahiti opening the scoring through Hanihei Taumaa (AS Papara FC) in the fifth minute. Selina Unamba (Tusbab Blue Kumuls) scored the equalizer for PNG in the 21st minute, with the other two coming from Ramona Padio (21 Lakers FC)—one from a penalty kick—within 10 minutes of each other late in the game. Papua New Guinea coach Peter Gunemba said the match revealed his side's weaknesses which gives them something to work on ahead of the semi-final: "I'm happy with the girls for the fight, coming from behind to get the win. When Tahiti scored I didn't panic because I felt we would always be able to win. They [Papua New Guinea's players] were caught by surprise, when Tahiti scored the first goal, they were all confused in the first half especially. We scored the equalizer in the first half and that gave us back our confidence and we started passing better and were able to score."

In the other Group A finale, New Caledonia advanced with a 2-0 win over Samoa with both goals coming in the second half, with Ami-Nata Ajapuhnya (AS Wetr) scoring in her first senior start along with Kamene Xowi (AC Boulogne-Billancourt of France) notching the clincher in the 66th minute.

In Group B, New Zealand blasted Tonga 11-0 and Fiji defeated Cook Islands 3-0 in the first group games on November 19. The Football Ferns received a hat trick from Sarah Gregorius (Capital Football) and braces from Betsy Hassett (KR Reykjavik of Iceland), Rosie White (Chicago Red Stars in the U.S.) and Annalie Longo (Canterbury United Pride). For Fiji, Cema Nasau, Luisa Tamanitoakula (both Ba FC) and Seattle-based high schooler Trina Davis (Washington Rush)—the only non-domestic based player for Fiji—all scored in the opening win over the Cook Islands.

In the second set of Group B matches on November 22, Fiji dismantled Tonga 12-0 while New Zealand defeated the Cook Islands 6-0. For Fiji, Tamanitoakula scored four times, Sofi Diyalowai (Labasa FC) had 3, Nasau had 2 along with Davis. For New Zealand, Emma Rolston (MSV Duisburg of Germany) scored twice, with singles from Longo, Katie Rood (Bristol City FC in England) and injury time tallies from 20-year-old Sarah Morton and 19-year-old Grace Jale (both Auckland Football Federation); Jale has played at one U-17 WWC and two FIFA U-20 finals—including this past summer in France—and has a very good chance of playing in her first senior tournament next summer. Jale now has two goals in two games as a substitute. Defender Ria Percival of West Ham United in England (28), who has played in three WWC's for the Football Ferns and scored in the opening game win over Tonga, appeared in her 132nd full international as a substitute against the Cook Islands. Percival was tied with the most internationals for New Zealand with Abby Ercig, who has retired but could still rejoin the team for France next summer, particularly since she was recently named Defender of the Year in the NWSL for the North Carolina Courage. Percival broke the record in the third group match against Fiji.

New Zealand and Fiji both qualified for the semifinals ahead of their November 25 Group B finale, while the Football Ferns had a 2 goal advantage in the event of a tie (+17 to +15 goals difference) in order to advance as group winners.

In the last group B matches on November 25, Tonga defeated Cook Islands 1-0 on a 3rd minute goal by Laveni Vaka, who plays in the States with the Utah Avalanche. New Zealand defeated Fiji 10-0 with Gregorius again scoring a hat trick and braces from Rood and Longo.

A couple of weeks ago, we previewed the OFC Nations Cup and Fiji's Trina Davis ( With the rosters finalized just ahead of the tournament, Samoa has the most imports—after New Zealand—with 4 from New Zealand and 3 each from Australia and the U.S. (including Mariah Bullock who played at Stanford University, in the NWSL with Boston and Seattle and for the U.S. at the youth level); New Caledonia had 4 from France and 1 from New Zealand; the Cook Islands have three players based in New Zealand; Fiji has one in Trina Davis from the U.S.; Tonga has two from New Zealand and two sisters from the States (Utah); while Tahiti and Papua New Guinea are all home-based. New Zealand had the most players coming in from abroad: three from England, three play in the NWSL, two are in Germany, with one each in France, Iceland and Sweden.

Note: We know that there is one other major tournament taking place—the African Women's Cup of Nations, which we previewed last week: ( will report on this important tournament, with three 2019 Women's World Cup berths at stake, over the next few weeks, and has a visiting representative who will provide quotes from players and coaches and local insight.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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