The women’s FIFA U-20 World Cup field is now down to just four nations. In two matches played last Sunday, Nigeria and France joined Germany and North Korea in the semifinals by winning their quarterfinal matches in contrasting styles. The two finalists will emerge after the semifinal games slated for the coming Wednesday. In the first quarterfinal, Nigeria defeated New Zealand 4-1 at Moncton Stadium while France came through after edging out South Korea 4-3 on penalties after the game remained goalless after regulation time in the Olympic Stadium at Montreal. Earlier on Saturday, Germany and North Korea had already entered the semifinals. While Germany beat hosts Canada 2-0, the match between North Korea and USA was decided on penalty shoot-out with North Korea beating USA 3-1.
In the first quarterfinal, Nigeria took the lead in the opening minute, when Asisat Oshoala was fed a perfect cross by Ugo Njoku from right immediately after kick-off. Oshoala was six yards away from goal but her header sailed into the goal before the New Zealand defenders could blink. It was the second fastest goal of the tournament scored in the 32nd second from kick-off. The fastest goal is also credited to the Nigerians, scored within 18 seconds by Courtney Dike in their group stage game against South Korea. Asisat Oshoala did not stop there and scored another goal in the 12th minute after Chinwendu Ihezuo kicked ahead after dodging four New Zealand defenders. Oshoala ran with the ball at top speed and deftly put the ball into the goal between the goalkeeper’s legs. The early 2-0 lead relaxed the Nigerians and the girls ensured that their goal was properly guarded. Nigeria increased their lead in the 84th minute, when Uchechi Sunday converted from a nicely tossed up corner kick. Five minutes later, New Zealand had the consolation of reducing Nigeria’s lead but this lasted only one minute, as just at the final whistle, Sunday’s speedy solo run down the left flank and overcoming a challenge by a defender resulted in the match ending 4-1 in Nigeria’s favor.
In the second game later on Sunday, the second quarterfinal between France and South Korea finished goalless and the decision came from the penalty shoot-out. Earlier, however, France escaped with luck in the second minute after halftime. The European champions yielded a penalty, when Marine Dafeur brought down Lee Geummin in the box. But the French goalkeeper Durand brilliantly saved not only the spot-kick but showed her reflexes, when she sprang up to save a rebound as well. While no goals could be scored by either side, good attempts on the goal came from both France and South Korea. Claire Lavogez was a constant threat to the South Korean goal but the Asian champions were thoroughly organized to prevent any damage. Moreover, the South Koreans showed their pace on the counter attack at times. In the end however, the match needed the penalty shoot-out. While French goalie Solene Durand continued her terrific form in the match to deny the South Africans, Claire Lavogez was on-spot with the decisive kick to take her side to the semifinal for a showdown with Germany on Wednesday.
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