By HENRY MORABANG
UNITED States coach Michelle French says her team must refocus its energies when they take on Japan in the Under-20 Women’s World Cup third-place playoff at National Football Stadium on Saturday.
The Stars and Stripes will lock horns with the Japanese for the second time in Papua New Guinea, after playing them in a friendly earlier in the year which the Japanese won 5-0.
Despite playing for third prize, there is no doubting the rivalry between the teams.
Being USA, there is no chance of a feeble showing in the early match on the final day of the World Cup.
“There is a disappointing feeling now that we stand here empty-handed, but now we need to look ahead,” French said.
“Our players must understand that the job has not yet been completed at this tournament. We must get up again and fight and aim to reach third place.”
French described the match against North Korea as an intense experience that lasted 120 minutes.
“It was a tense match with great intensity from both teams throughout.
“I’m extremely proud of my team; they gave it everything they had.
“Although it’s disappointing to come away empty-handed, we’ve got to keep looking forward.”
French said she would not make any bold predictions about the final other than to say all her players were focused on was finishing their tournament on a positive note.
“I think the third place playoff is pretty important in a World Cup,” she said.
For the third time at the U20 Women’s World Cup, the US fell behind and for the third time they drew level. However, completing the comeback in the semi-final proved a step too far as North Korea secured a 2-1 extra-time victory. While hopes of a record fourth world title at this level are now over, the Americans can be proud of their efforts proving their worth with raw determination and sheer will power to make it to the semis.
They came from behind to draw with Ghana in the group stage, and did so again to earn a memorable quarterfinal victory over Mexico.
The semifinal saw North Korea need two hours of football to beat three-time world champions the US and reach the final for the first time in eight years.
The result also enabled them to exact revenge on their North American rivals for their loss to the Yanks in the final at Chile 2008.
Extra-time was also required to separate Japan and France in a tightly-contested game, with the mercurial French producing late game heroics to beat Japan 2-1.
By HENRY MORABANG