The 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup has been taking place in Jordan.
At first, the stories surrounding this tournament has been the personal efforts of Prince Ali Bin Hussein to bring the tournament to the Middle East, and how it is being seen as a symbol of empowerment for girls and women in the region.
But if you watched the play throughout the first three days of competition, the term “empowerment” doesn’t begin to describe the quality of play, skills, and some amazing goals that have been scored thus far.
Today might have topped them all, however. In the final minute of play in a group game between Venezuela and Cameroon, Alexandra Takouna found herself in an awkward position running into the box, stepped over the pass, and backheeled it into the goal with a deftness and craft that Thierry Henry might appreciate.
Seconds later, Venezuelan captain Deyna Castellanos asked for a teammate to roll her the center pass, and she aimed a high, flighted ball at the Cameroon goal. The ball caught the Lions’ goalie napping, and went in. It was an absolutely amazing goal straight from the Carli Lloyd or David Beckham playbook.
It’s been little more than a year since the last FIFA Womens’ World Cup, and I think the youth players all around the world are picking up not only on the physical prowess of the best teams on the planet, but they are also picking up on the tactical awareness of the way to use space. I think a lot of it is because of role-modeling; video of players like Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd and Christine Sinclair are readily available around the world, and players and coaches can copy skills and styles of play.
Sure, there are times when the game looks like it is being played on a 40-yard strip in between the goal cages, but many of young women on the pitch, all born in 1999 or later, seem to have wisdom beyond their years. Looks to me like the future of women’s soccer is in good hands.