Hosts Costa Rica and Australia will open the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on Aug. 10, the draw for the competition’s four groups determined Thursday in San Jose.
“We want to put in the best performance possible, but we have to take it step by step. We’ve never won a game in a women’s World Cup, so we have to go for that first win and then evolve,” said Costa Rica coach Jose Catoya.
“What an exciting opportunity it will be to open the World Cup. It’s going to be a great experience. In fact, it already is,” said his Australian counterpart, Leah Blayney, referring to the ceremony, which was attended by the 16 coaches of the participating teams.
The match will take place at the National Stadium, one of the two venues chosen by the organization to host the 32 matches of the tournament, along with the Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela.
“I thank on behalf of FIFA all those who have participated in the organization of this long-awaited tournament here in Costa Rica and which marks the return of our soccer tournaments after the pandemic,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino, through a video projected at the National Theater, venue of the draw.
Costa Rica and Australia were drawn in Group A, along with powerhouses Brazil and Spain, candidates to lift the trophy on the 28th of the same month.
“It’s a complicated group, but I know the girls will give their best effort,” said Shirley Cruz, the most recognized player in Costa Rica’s history and who decided her team’s fate during the draw.
Group B is made up of Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and Colombia.
Group C has France, Nigeria, South Korea and Canada.
And in Group D were Japan, reigning champion of the category, the United States, Ghana and the Netherlands. The Japanese team lifted the title in 2018, when the competition was held in France.
“It’s been four years and we have a new group of players. This is a new challenge. We feel no pressure, but of course we want to win the title,” Japan coach Futoshi Ikeda expounded.
Among the main stars who could be at the World Cup are Australia’s Mary Fowler, USA’s Alexis Missimo, Germany’s Lissane Gräwe and Camilla Kuver, France’s Alice Sombath, Spain’s Andrea Medina, Brazil’s Giovana Queiroz and Japan’s Maya Hijikata and Aemu Oyama.
This will be the tenth edition of the tournament, after there was no competition in 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
For that year, the organization corresponded, jointly, to Costa Rica and Panama. However, as the virus showed its extent, the Panamanian authorities declined.
Their Costa Rican counterpart stayed on board, which is why FIFA, after completely canceling the event, decided to award them the host country again for 2022.
This is the second soccer World Cup that Costa Rica organizes in its history, after the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014, at the time, it registered record crowds for a women’s youth tournament.
According to FIFA data, throughout that tournament, 284,320 fans attended its 32 matches. The inaugural game at the Estadio Nacional, where Costa Rica was represented, drew a full house of 35,000 people.
by David GOLDBERG