Under-20 Women's World Cup: New stars begin early

A new Under-20 Women's World Cup champion will be crowned on Friday. Of the four semifinalists, only France has ever reached the final, losing to North Korea two years ago. Japan has finished third twice, but England and Spain have never before advanced as far as the final four.

U-20 Women's World Cup, Semifinals
Monday, August 20
England vs. Japan 10 am. (FS2, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo)
France vs. Spain 1:30 pm. (FS2, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo)
All times ET.

A look at players to watch on the four teams reveals some common themes. They all got opportunities at young ages, whether from pro clubs or development programs initiated by federations, to train and compete.

Amelie Delabre (France). Delabre is from the village of Collat (population: 80), located about 60 miles southwest of St. Etienne, and played on boys teams until she entered the "pole espoir" at Vaulx-en-Velin -- one of seven regional residency programs organized by the French federation to prepare girls aged 16-18 for elite soccer. Like the FFF's boys program (ages 13-14), players spend the week training and studying and return home on weekends to play for their local team.

Delabre, whose cousin Jessy Tremouliere plays for France's women's national rugby team, says it wasn't until she went to Vaulx-en-Velin that she thought it was possible to be a professional women's player. She played six games for second division St. Etienne in 2017-18 and has moved to promoted first division Metz for the new season that begins at the end of August. Metz coach David Fanzel describes her as having the profile of French World Cup champion Olivier Giroud but with a little more finesse.

U-20 Women's World Cup: Delabre, the youngest player on the host Bleuettes at the age of 17, was supposed to be the backup to Marie-Antoinette Katoto (21 goals for Paris St. Germain in 2017-18), but she got the start and scored the winning penalty kick in the 1-0 win over North Korea in the quarterfinals after scoring a hat trick in the first half of the 4-0 win over the Netherlands that closed out group play.

Alessia Russo (England). In an Italian-English family with a soccer-playing father and two older brothers, Russo began playing soccer at an early age.

She first entered the Centre of Excellence program operated by Charlton Athletic at the age of 8 and made her international debut when she was 13 with the England U-15 national team. She played briefly for the first teams at Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion but decided to pursue college soccer in the United States.

Her move to North Carolina in 2017 was aided, according to Tar Heels coach Anson Dorrance, by her familiarity with the U.S. university system. Older brother Luca had run track at the University of Missouri. In her first season at UNC, all Russo did was lead the Tar Heels to the ACC title and be named the ACC Tournament MVP.

U-20 Women's World Cup: Russo has scored three goals. She was one of five U.S. collegians who started in the 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals along with goalkeeper Sandy MacIver (Clemson), defenders Anna Patten (Florida State) and Grace Fisk (South Carolina) and midfielder Georgia Allen (Syracuse).

Patri Guijarro (Spain). Patri was only 15 when she debuted for Collerense in the Spanish first division and joined Barcelona when she was 17, playing for the first team and studying at the famed La Mesia academy. She credits the improved play in the Spanish league with the new-found success of the national team program.

Patri, who led Spain to the 2017 U-19 UEFA women's championship, also starts on Spain's senior national team that has won all six games and qualifying for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
U-20 Women's World Cup: With her goal for La Rojita in its 2-1 win over Nigeria in the quarterfinals, Patri  shares the tournament scoring lead with England's Georgia Stanway.

Moeka Minami (Japan). Minami first attracted national attention when she was in grade school playing for Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies Youth, which won the back-to-back All Japan Youth (U-15) Women's Championships, the first one with a team of seventh- and eighth-graders playing against ninth-graders.

She is one of 15 players on Japan's 2018 U-20 Women's World Cup with previous World Cup experience, having represented Japan when it won the 2014 Under-17 Women's World Cup in Costa Rica. The Japan captain got to attend the World Cup in Russia, taking part in a FIFA workshop for "the female leaders of tomorrow."

U-20 Women's World Cup: Minami has anchored the second-best defense in the tournament. The late goal Germany scored in Japan's 3-1 win in the quarterfinals was only the second the Young Nadeshiko have conceded in four games.
1 comment about "Under-20 Women's World Cup: New stars begin early".
  1. R2 Dad, August 20, 2018 at 3:26 p.m.

    Japan and Spain, two technical sides, in the final. Is this the handwriting on the wall for the fast/tall/beefy teams the US has always fielded? No one can claim the Japanese are any of those things, yet they are sweeping aside more storied countries. Good for the game to have a new champion. When will the US start selecting more technical/less athletic players?

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