The USA beat Germany, 1-0, and North Korea edged France, 2-1, Thursday to set up a showdown in the final Sunday at 4:30 ET (TV arrangements TBA.). Three weeks ago, the North Korean under-17 team defeated its U.S. counterpart, 2-1, to claim the first-ever title of that age group for female players.
Sydney Leroux (UCLA) scored in the 21st minute from a cross by Nikki Washington (North Carolina) to down Germany, 1-0, and secure the U.S. a spot in the final against North Korea, which rallied from a goal down and struck a winner in stoppage time to stun France, 2-1.
"I think we defended very well tonight and we've done that all tournament," said U.S. head coach Tony DiCicco of a resilient defensive effort that held off Germany despite several players noticeably sagging from fatigue in the second half. "I'm proud of my players because they've played a lot of games in a short amount of time, which isn't easy but I'm glad we've made it to the final. We've gotten better as the tournament has gone on and that is a testament to our players."
The final thus pits defending U-20 champion North Korea against the 2002 winner, when it was staged as an U-19 competition. (Germany won the 2004 tournament.) FIFA at first initiated a U-19 competition to supplement the Women's World Cup and Olympic competitions but has changed it to a U-20 designation.
Leroux's goal highlighted a first half controlled by the U.S. possession and its accurate balls out of midfield to Washington on the right flank and Alex Morgan on the left. To set up the goal, Washington beat three defenders with stop-and-go moves before centering a ball toward a charging Leroux and a German defender; it appeared to bounce off Leroux's opponent before it rolled just inside the post, but the UCLA freshman received official credit.
Germany held off American efforts to get a second goal and gained some traction in midfield following the halftime addition of Monique Kershowski, but usually took long-distance shots that didn't trouble U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher. Central defender Lauren Fowlkes, named Woman of the Match, marshaled a defense that turned away numerous crosses and lofted set plays.
Naeher's only tricky save came in the final minutes on a low, skidding shot that Bianca Schmidt drove toward the far post, and she got down quickly to smother the ball and the last German hope.
North Korea scored midway through the second half and in stoppage time to down France, which had taken a 1-0 lead with a goal by Nora Coton Pelagie in the 51st minute. In the 68th minute Ri Un Hyang headed home from a Kim Chun Hui cross to tie the game and set up an incredible finish.
With overtime looming, Pak Kuk Hui lofted a high ball from midfield deep into the goalmouth and as the French stood transfixed, waiting for an offside whistle, Ri Ye Gyong stabbed the ball into the net with her right foot.
Dec. 4 in Coquimbo
USA -- Naeher, Reed, Fowlkes, Marshall, Klingenberg, Nairn, Winters, Edwards, Washington, Morgan (Enyeart, 59), Leroux (Dallstream, 89).
Germany -- Vetterlein, Baunach, Henning, Schiewe, Schmidt, Bock (Schwabb, 57), I.Kerschowski (Simic, 74), N.Banecki, Faisst, S.Banecki, Goddard (M.Kerschowski,46)
Referee: Sachiko Baba (Japan).
Dec. 4 in Temuco
North Korea 2 France 1. Goals: Ri Un Hyang 68, Ri Ye Gyong 90; Coton Pelagie 51.
North Korea -- Kim Un Ju, Pak, Yun, Kim Chun Hoi, Choe Un Ju, Ri Ye Gyong, Ri Jong Sim (Ri Hyon Suk, 59), Ri Un Hyang, Hwang, Cha, Ra.
France -- Gerard, Butel, Gonssollin (Chatelin, 78), Rebard, Agard, Bilbault, Plaza, Delie, Le Sommer, Machart, Coton Pelagie.
Referee: Carol Anne Chenard (Canada).