CHICAGO (Monday, May 13, 2002) – Fresh off a dominating performance at the CONCACAF Under-19 Women’s Qualifying Tournament this past weekend, the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team today learned the path to their next challenge as the Final Draw for the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championships was held in Zurich, Switzerland. The first-ever FIFA world championship for youth women will be held August 17 through Sept. 1, 2002, in Canada and the USA was placed in Group C as the top-seeded team, drawing England, Chinese Taipei and Australia in first-round play. All the Group C matches will be played at the 6,000-seat Centennial Stadium in Victoria, B.C., just above the Washington state border.
“When you have only 12 teams in a world championship tournament, every game will be an incredible challenge,” said U.S. head coach Tracey Leone, whose team outscored its opposition 34-1 over three matches at the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament played last week on the Caribbean island of Tobago. “All these teams had to battle and survive qualification and it does wonders for a team’s confidence in that you have a great achievement under your belt. We expect all the games to be at a very high level. There will be many contrasting styles, but all the teams will be effective in their styles.”
The 12 teams were drawn into three groups of four teams each and will play round robin matches within the groups in the first round. The first and second place finishers in each group, plus the two best third place finishers in the groups will advance to the quarterfinals, where knockout play will commence. The USA will play its three first-round matches in a span of five days, opening play on Saturday, August 17 against England at 1:00 p.m. PT in the first match of the tournament. The USA will then face Australia on Monday, August 19 at 7:15 p.m. PT and finish Group C play against Chinese Taipei (a.k.a. Taiwan) on Wednesday, August 21 at 7:15 p.m. PT.
Group A will feature host Canada, Denmark, Nigeria and Japan. All those matches will be played at the 60,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, site of both semifinals and the final. Group B is topped by European champion Germany and features France, Mexico and Brazil. Those matches will be played at the 8,000-seat Swangard Stadium in Vancouver, B.C. Of the 12 countries in the tournament, only three did not have their senior women’s national teams at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup – England, Chinese Taipei and France.
There will be four matches played on August 17 as Group B and Group B both play doubleheaders at their respective venues. The Opening Ceremonies and Canada’s first match will take place on August 18 in Edmonton as the hosts square off against Denmark.
England qualified through the UEFA Under-19 Women’s Championship that ended yesterday with Germany’s 3-1 win over France in the final game, a match that will be reprised in Group C on the opening day of the tournament. England defeated Norway, 2-1, in group play at the UEFA U-19 championships in a win that effectively earned them a berth to the world championships as they lost the next two group games and squeaked through to the semifinals on goal difference. The top four finishers at the UEFA tournament earned berths to Canada.
“England had a great result against Norway in the UEFA championships and that tells us a lot about that team,” said Leone. “You have to be tremendously mentally tough to beat Norway. Women’s soccer is really growing in England and that is reflected in their qualification. It’s a bit of a changing of the guard in Europe with teams like France, England and Denmark qualifying while Norway and Sweden did not, but it was incredibly close over there. The margin of victory was small in Europe and that will no doubt help these teams come World Cup time. They qualified in the most difficult region of the world. That will be bonus for them.”
Chinese Taipei won its group on goal difference in the Asian U-19 Qualifying Tournament, destroying Singapore and Hong Kong while tying China, 0-0, to make the semifinals. In that semifinal, Chinese Taipei tied Korea DPR, 1-1, in regulation and then booked its tickets to Canada with a 4-3 win in penalty kicks. Chinese Taipei then lost to Japan in the championship game, 2-1.
“It looks like they have a very good defensive team and of course scored a lot of goals,” said Leone. “We’ve played both China and Japan and have tremendous respect for those teams. For Chinese Taipei to tie China and lose to Japan by a goal tells us they are a quality team and gives us great respect for them as well. We know they will be very technical and disciplined.”
“Australia rolled over their region and they’ll come into the tournament with some well-deserved confidence,” said Leone of the Matildas, who had little trouble in the Oceania region to earn their berth, defeating New Zealand in the championship game, 6-0. “The Australians have a lot of passion, desire and pride. It’s an incredibly tough game anytime you play them.”
Leone will now have a three-month preparation period for the historic world championship during which she will re-evaluate her pool before picking the final 18-player roster for the tournament. The U.S. team will regroup in mid-June for a trip to Europe and then undergo a short residency camp in San Diego, Calif. in mid-July, before heading to the northwest in early August for their final preparations for the world championship.
The ticket sales for the tournament are off to a great start as 40,000 single-venue passes have already been sold through a local youth soccer promotion in Canada. For tickets for the U.S. matches at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, fans can call All Sports at 250/380-1980 or Soccer World at 250/475-3777. For the games at Swangard Stadium in Vancouver, B.C., tickets can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 604/280-4444. Tickets for the Commonwealth Stadium venue in Edmonton can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 780/451-8000 or by calling the Alberta Soccer Association at 780/474-2200. Fans can also order online at www.tickemaster.ca. Following is the entire 26-game schedule for 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championships.
CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH/THIRD PLACE MATCH