Germany have won the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup for a record-equalling third time after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Nigeria at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in Canada Sunday night, early Monday in Africa.
Lena Petermann scored the title-winning goal eight minutes into extra time to settle a match that, like the semi-final against France, had seen the Germans outplayed for long stretches. For the second match in succession, though, the Europeans’ will to win shone through, as did the quality of goalkeeper Meike Kamper – again named player of the match.
This clash of styles and football cultures was always expected to produce an open, engaging final, and so it proved. Nigeria quickly gained a foothold and went on to dominate the first half, creating the better and more numerous chances. An inability to convert those chances was their only failing, and the most guilty party was tournament top scorer Asisat Oshoala.
The in-form striker, who had scored four times in the semi-final win over Korea DPR, was lively throughout but missed her first golden opportunity after 22 minutes. In fairness, she created the opening out of nothing, robbing Margarita Gidion, outpacing the German defence and rounding Kamper in a stunning display of speed and strength. She could not, however, find the finishing touch, managing only to shoot into the side-netting from an acute angle.
With Nigeria’s superior physical attributes a telling factor on the big Olympic Stadium pitch, it wasn’t long before more chances arrived, with Oshoala again given a sight of goal seven minutes before the break. Again, though, her sights were out, with the ball flashing wide after Chiwendo Ihezuo had done well to snatch possession from Rebecca Knaak at the byline and cut the ball back.
These were nonetheless worrying times for Germany, whose best effort had come from a Lina Magull free-kick comfortably saved by Sandra Chiichii. But Maren Meinert’s side began the second half brightly, with Theresa Panfil and Lena Petermann combining to tee up Sara Daebritz for a powerful left-foot shot that skidded into the arms of Chiichii.
Oshoala remained a constant source of danger, though, and she again came to life three minutes later, jinking in from the left wing past two German defenders. All that was lacking was the final touch, with the No4’s first effort striking a team-mate before the rebound was sliced high and wide.
However, missing chances wasn’t restricted to Oshoala and Nigeria. Germany also spurned their opportunities, with Pauline Bremer stealing in unmarked on a Sara Dabritz free-kick only to head wastefully wide. The Super Falconets then had to call on the bravery of their keeper, with Chiichii racing from her line to dive at the feet of Lena Petermann, picking up a bruised jaw in the process.
Play still tended to rage towards the other end, though, and with five minutes remaining Nigeria had the ball in the net only for their celebrations to be cut short by the assistant referee’s flag. That left extra time to settle this pulsating affair and, after Oshoala had again gone close for Nigeria, it was Germany who found a breakthrough.
Petermann scored it, slotting home from six yards, but the plaudits went to the energetic Bremer, who had robbed left-back Gladys Abasi before driving towards the byline and delivering the perfect cutback.
Nigeria, who had given so much to the match, proved unable to respond. Germany saw out the remaining minutes with a degree of comfort and can now savour the familiar feeling of being crowned champions of the world.