BY APESIN ADEMOLA.
Uruguay 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup ended on a note of several firsts!
Spain, who beat Mexico 2-1 in the showpiece match late Saturday, lifted the trophy for the first time. In the final in 2014 and two-time bronze medallists, the Spaniards finally got it right in Uruguay.
Their victims, Mexico’s best performance before now were two quarterfinal appearances. In Uruguay, they decked their necks with the silver medals.
By beating Canada 2-1 in the earlier third placed match, New Zealand also made history. Five previous qualifications have only fetched the Young Football Ferns group stage knockouts. Now they are the third best female team in the world among the cadets!
Canada had qualified for the quarterfinals three times before Uruguay 2018. This time they went one notch up into the semis and finished fourth.
Africa’s best representatives Ghana lost on penalties to eventual silver medallists Mexico on penalties in the last eight, while Cameroon and South Africa exited at the group stage, the latter at the foot of the table in their group.
Nigeria did not make it to the finals.
Spain, the new champions, relied on first half goals by Barcelona forward Claudia Pina to overcome the tough Mexicans in the final.
The Spaniards quick passing and off-the-wall movement unsettled Mexico.
Denise Castro scored what proved to be a consolation goal for Mexico from skipper Nicole Perez’s corner kick to wrap up the first half.
Opportunities in the second half were few and far between as both sides avoided making mistakes.
Five teams have won the tournament since it started in 2008.
Korea DPR claimed the inauguration edition in New Zealand and the fourth championship eight years later in Jordan. They were runners-up in 2012, but lost to champions Spain in the quarterfinal of Uruguay 2018.
Korea Republic (2010), France (2012) and Japan (2014) were the other winners before Spain joined their elite class in Uruguay.
FIFA will decide the host nation of the seventh championship in the first quarter of next year. It will be either France or Mexico.