As African qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship had not yet been completed at the time of the Final Draw in Moscow on April 22, the U.S. U-20s had to wait until this week to find out which team they would open the tournament against on August 18 in Moscow. The USA had drawn an African team into Group D, but had to wait until Nigeria and the DR Congo won their semifinal matches in mid-May, and then for FIFA to draw those two teams into their groups last week.
The USA had a 50/50 chance to get the perennial African champion Baby Falcons who, in the quarterfinals of the 2004 U-19 Women’s World Championships, almost defeated eventual champion Germany. Instead, the U.S. drew debutante Democratic Republic of Congo while Nigeria will go into Group B with China, Finland and Canada in what just might be the “Group of Death” for this tournament.
The match against the Congo, a country of more than 62 million in Central Africa, presents one of the most intriguing matchups in youth WNT history. The Congo will be playing its first match in a women’s world championship of any sort and it will also be the first-ever match for a U.S. youth Women’s National Team against an African country.
DR Congo defeated Benin, 3-1, on aggregate in a two-leg series in preliminary round qualifying, then tied Mali, 1-1, in the first leg in the second round. Mali subsequently withdrew, which sent DR Congo to the semifinal round against South Africa as a heavy underdog. DR Congo won that two-game series, also by a 3-1 aggregate score, to earn its place in Russia.
At the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Final Qualifying Tournament in late January, the USA defeated Mexico, 3-0, in the semifinal to earn its place in Russia. In first-round play in Russia, the USA will also face Argentina on Aug. 21, and finish group play against France on Aug. 24. All the first-round matches will be played in Moscow.