USA Will Play All Three-First Round Matches in Phuket;
European Qualifying Yet to Determine Two Other Group C Teams;
USA Opens Tournament on November 11 vs. Asian Champs South Korea
The U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team was drawn into Group C at the Final Draw for the 2004 FIFA U-19 World Championship this morning at the Imperial Queen Park Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. The USA will face Asian champion South Korea and two as yet to be determined European teams during the 2nd FIFA world championship for youth women being held Nov. 10-27 in Thailand. All three of the USA’s first-round matches will be played in Phuket, an island in the southern part of the country.
The 12-team competition features three groups of four teams with the two teams in each group and top two third-place teams advancing to the quarterfinals. The draw was held with only seven of the 12 nations having qualified, with four European teams and one African team still to be determined. The USA will be paying particular attention to the European Final Round qualification tournament in Finland from July 28-August 8, as the young U.S. team will face the winner and the third-place team from that competition in Group C.
The USA was drawn into perhaps the most difficult group, pending the results of the European qualification matches, but Group A, featuring host Thailand, the second place finisher in Europe, Australia and Canada, and Group B, featuring the African champion, China, the fourth place team in Europe and Brazil, will also be highly competitive. The USA will open the tournament on Thursday, Nov. 11, the second day of the competition, facing South Korea at 5 p.m. local (5 a.m. ET). The USA then faces the third-place finisher in Europe on Sunday, Nov. 14 (Kickoff TDB) and finishes Group C play on Thursday, Nov. 18 against the European champion (7:45 p.m. local / 7:45 a.m. ET)
“South Korea has to be a very talented team to have come first out of that tournament,” said U.S. head coach Mark Krikorian of a team that defeated China 3-0 in the Asian U-19 championship game. “We played the Japanese about a month ago and I thought they were a very strong team. We have played China as well, so for the South Koreans to have emerged first from that group speaks to the quality of the players and their team.”
The USA was the last team drawn, coming out of Pot 4 that also contained Australia and Africa. Group C is the only group that contains two European nations. The eight teams battling for the four spots from Europe in the final round competition are Spain, Switzerland, Finland, Germany, Norway, France, Italy and Russia.
“All of the teams that emerge from Europe will be quality,” said Krikorian. “When looking at the draw, we know we will have three very strong opponents in the first round and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
The defending champion United States qualified for the world championship by defeating Mexico, 6-0, in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament in Canada on June 4. The USA lost the championship game to Canada, 2-1, in overtime, on June 6, which gave Canada a top seeding at the world championship.
“It’s a tough group, no doubt,” said U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. “But I think it’s actually beneficial, because when we play teams that are not as strong, it’s difficult to keep our focus. We don’t like it easy, we like playing the top teams in the world. For sure we are still disappointed by the loss to Canada and that will be motivating.”
Krikorian will bring 18 players to Thailand, and among them will likely be several emerging young stars. Forward Kerri Hanks had a breakout tournament in Canada, leading the competition with nine goals and increasing her career international total at the U-19 level to 21. Crafty midfielder Angie Woznuk scored a true hat trick in the semifinal win over Mexico and now has nine goals for her career. Both were reserves on the USA’s 2002 U-19 World Championship Team.
The USA also has one of the best young goalkeepers in the world in Harris, the starter on the 2002 team who against Canada suffered just her third-ever defeat at the U-19 level against 22 wins and two ties. The USA’s defense is also strong, led by 2002 FIFA U-19 World Championship veteran Rachel Buehler, and 6-foot defender Stacy Lindstrom, who has also played at holding midfielder for the USA. Adding some spice to the attack is the speedy Sheree Gray, who was hampered by an ankle injury during qualifying, but whose versatility, pace and skill should be a key factor Gray in the USA’s run in Thailand.
“We spent an awful lot of time evaluating a lot of players in the last four months and trying to determine the style and system that works best,” said Krikorian. “Now is the time focus and spend a lot of energy to develop that style and system. We’ve asked these players to deal with a lot of change in a short time and they have done very well. Now it’s time for us to be the best teachers we can be and for them to be the best students they can. Hopefully, we will put all the pieces together when we get to Thailand in November.”
The U.S. U-19s are scheduled to have four domestic training camps and possibly one trip abroad in the next five months before departing for Thailand, a period which will be extremely valuable to the continued development of the young U.S. team.
“It’s going to be a tough five months,” said Harris. “We have a lot going on and a lot of hard work to do, but it will be a valuable time to come together as a team. We have been learning a new style, but I think we have a lot of talent and we are going to take everything we can from Mark and put it together on the field.”
2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship Groups
GROUP A (Bangkok)
GROUP B (Chiang Mai)
GROUP C (Phuket)
2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship Schedule
Date Match/Group Teams Venue Kickoff (Local / ET)
Nov. 10 1 A Thailand vs. Europe 2nd Bangkok 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
2 A Australia vs. Canada Bangkok 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
3 B Africa 1st vs. China Chiang Mai 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
4 B Europe 4th vs. Brazil Chiang Mai 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
Nov. 11 5 C South Korea vs. USA Phuket 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
6 C Europe 3rd vs. Europe 1 Phuket 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
Nov. 13 7 A Europe 2nd vs. Australia Bangkok 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
8 A Canada vs. Thailand Bangkok 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
9 B China vs. Europe 4th Chiang Mai TBD
10 B Brazil vs. Africa 1st Chiang Mai TBD
Nov. 14 11 C USA vs. Europe 3rd Phuket TBD
12 C Europe 1st vs. South Korea Phuket TBD
Nov. 16 13 A Europe 2nd vs. Canada Bangkok TBD
14 A Australia vs. Thailand Bangkok TBD
15 B China vs. Brazil Chiang Mai TBD
16 B Europe 4th vs. Africa 1st Chiang Mai TBD
Nov. 18 17 C USA vs. Europe 1st Phuket TBD
18 C Europe 3rd vs. South Korea Phuket TBD
Nov. 21 19 Quarterfinal Winner A vs. 3rd B or C TBD 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
20 Quarterfinal Winner B vs. 2nd C TBD 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
21 Quarterfinal Winner C vs. 3rd B or A TBD 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
22 Quarterfinal 2nd A vs. 2nd C TBD 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
Nov. 24 23 Semifinal Winner 19 vs. Winner 21 Bangkok 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
24 Semifinal Winner 20 vs. Winner 22 Bangkok 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.
Nov. 27 25 3rd Place Semifinal Losers Bangkok 5 p.m. / 5 a.m.
26 Final Semifinal Winners Bangkok 7:45 p.m. / 7:45 a.m.