• Friday Dec 19, 2008

    Year in Review: U-20 Women's World Cup title caps near perfect year for USA

    Fans of the USA women's soccer teams will be sorry to see 2008 come to an end.

    The USA capped a near perfect year in early December, capturing the U-20 Women's World Cup championship in Chile with a 2-1 win over Korea DPR in the final.

    The triumph followed an Olympic gold medal in Beijing and runner-up finish in November's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand, making the USA arguably the most dominant force in women soccer.

    With the win, the Americans became the first country to win two women's world titles in the same calendar year. It also marked USA's second youth world title and first since the inaugural tournament in Canada in 2002, when it was a U-19 event.

    Having led the USA to the 1999 Women's World Cup title, coach Tony DiCicco led his squad to first place in its group in Chile. Victories over England in the quarterfinals and Germany in the semifinals set the stage for the showdown with Korea DPR, a re-match of the U-17 championship match.

    Despite a slow start, the Americans settled down and took control of the game. Goals by Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan before halftime gave the Americans a commanding lead.

    Its defense took over from there, stifling the Asian champion until finally relenting in injury time.

    It was the only blemish of the entire tournament for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who hadn't allowed a goal in nearly five full games. It earned her the Golden Glove award as the tournament's top goalkeeper.

    It was one of many honors for the United Staes. Leroux was presented with Golden Ball as the tournament's best player and the Golden Shoe for her five goals that made her the leading scorer. Morgan, her strike partner, had four goals and went home with the Bronze Shoe.

    "We've been through a few things together as a team over the last 11 months," Leroux said. "It's been a long journey, but at the end of the day, it's finished with each of us wearing a gold medal. I think the key to our success was going into the final with huge self belief."

    Despite taking the title, the USA, surprisingly, was not the top team out of CONCACAF.

    Canada upset the Americans in the final of the CONCACAF U-20 championship in Mexico in June.

    Karla Schacher's 45th-minute goal stood up to give Canada its first CONCACAF women's youth title since capturing the U-19 championship in 2004.

    Ian Bridge's side took the momentum into Chile, but lost its opener to Japan 2:0 and had to scramble to recover.

    A 4:0 victory over Congo DR put the Canadians back into the quarterfinal hunt. But a 2:1 loss to Germany on a own-goal in the 77th minute, and then a 90th-minute winner ended its chances.

    Mexico reached the event as the third team out of CONCACAF, beating Costa Rica on penalty kicks in the third-place match of the confederation championship.

    The world stage, though, proved to be too much for La Tri, who lost all three of its matches by a combined 12:2.

    After a respectable loss to Norway, Mexico was routed by both Brazil and Korea DPR to end with the tournament's second-worst record.

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