While the whole world waits for June 2014, when the year’s biggest sporting event unfolds at Brazil, scores and scores of bright little angels will be seen storming on the football fields of Costa Rica from tonight. A new sporting chapter will be appended in the football history books of Costa Rica, where the fourth edition of FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup 2014 is being organized during March 15-April 04, 2014. FIFA first launched the tournament six years ago, when New Zealand hosted the inaugural event in 2008. Since then, this football format has acquired tremendous popularity. The tournament presents an opportunity for budding teenage girls to show their techniques, temperament and determination, the three essential factors necessary to become great future footballers.
The Central American Spanish speaking country of Costa Rica has a total population of just 4.3 million and it has Nicaragua and Panama as its bordering nations. Tourism is the country’s main trade since Costa Rica has Caribbean Sea to its east and the Pacific Ocean to its west. With predominantly mountainous land terrain, the country is geographically picturesque and the little girls will definitely enjoy the abundant scenic beauty when they travel to Liberia and Alajuela, the two distant cities, located 211 and 104 kilometers respectively from capital San Jose. The other venue Tibas is just 7 kilometers away. It is noteworthy that Alajuela and Tibas have FIFA provided synthetic pitches.
The inaugural match tonight will be played between the hosts Costa Rica and Venezuela at the national stadium in the capital city of San Jose. Costa Rican Coach Juan Diego Quesada is confident that his charges will make a positive start. The tournament features 16 teams divided in 4 groups of 4 teams each. The group stage games will be played in round-robin fashion with each team playing 3 matches. The knock-out stage begins with 4 quarterfinals on March, 27, when Group A winner plays to No. 2 in Group B, Group B winner plays no. 2 in Group A, Group C winner takes on No. 2 in Group D and Group D winner meets no. 2 in Group C. The 2 semifinals have been scheduled for March 31 and Final and third-place play-off games on April 4, 2014.
France were the champions of 2012 Azerbaijan world cup but they failed to qualify this time. USA is another team, which will not be seen since they lost to Mexico in their last match of qualifying rounds. But there are several strong contenders for the title this year. They include; Germany, Canada, Nigeria, Japan, DPR Korea, Ghana and New Zealand. Italy and Zambia will be making their debut in the U-17 World Cup This year.
The format of the tournament makes it obvious that most players taking part will be doing so for the first time. Many of those, who played two years ago, may no longer be available having grown in ages and many other new entrants would make their maiden appearances. But even so, there are some names, which are doing the rounds at the tournament. 15 year old Costa Rican girl Gloriana Villalobos is already hitting the headlines as the hosts’ top player. She wears the no. 10 jersey and she is so good that in all likelihood she will be named as the captain of the Costa Rican team. Another player, whose credentials are spread in sports pages, is the midfielder from Ghana. Her name is Fuseina Mumuni, who looks very modest and she is still one month away from her 13th birthday. One look at her will not tell you that she can play football, but tender-aged Mumuni is certain to represent her country in this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. The Ghana coach Evans Adotey is all praise for Mumuni and she is set to break the record as the youngest player to have ever participated in a FIFA tournament. This record is currently in the name of Sainey Sissohore of Gambia, who was 13 years and 8 months old, when she played for Gambia at Azerbaijan 2012. Unfortunately since Gambia couldn’t qualify for Costa Rica World Cup, Sissohore will be able to make a successive appearance. Shy by nature, Hina Sugita is making a repeat appearance in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup for Japan. In two years, her game has improved phenomenally and she has already been voted as the best player in Asian qualifying tournament. But Sugita herself feels she could have done even better.
For many participants the tournament will be a stepping stone to a long career in the game, which is being increasing sought by women all over the world. For teenagers from 16 countries, who have converged at Costa Rica, the thrill of tournament participation itself is the realization of a dream. This makes victory and defeat as secondary factors, because when the girls go home, they will carry the cherished memories of 21 days to share with their dear ones and families.