In a battle of two-time world champions, the U.S. U-20 women’s national team—with Blue Devils Mollie Pathman and Kelly Cobb—shut out Germany to bring home the gold from the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Recording the first goal and the first shutout of the tournament against the defending-champion German squad, the Americans won 1-0 at National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan Sep. 8 to earn their third World Cup crown at this age division.
Pathman, who was one of two U.S. field players to play every minute of the three-week long tournament, helped the American back line stymie the German offense, which had averaged 2.5 goals per game entering the match.
“We took care of business here, and I couldn’t be more happy now to come home, rejoin my Duke team, go back to classes—really start the year,” Pathman said.
The U.S. entered the match with an average of just 1.8 goals per game and had already fallen to Germany earlier in the World Cup. In their final game of the group stage, the Americans allowed three goals, losing 3-0 to the German squad Aug. 27 at Miyagi Stadium in Rifu.
Making it out of the group stage on a tiebreaker, the U.S. then pulled off an overtime win against previously-unbeaten North Korea 2-1, at Komaba Stadium in Saitama and a 2-0 semifinal victory against Nigeria Sep. 4 in Tokyo. Having started one game in the group stage, Cobb started both the quarterfinal and semifinal match, though she did not play in the final.
The Americans’ knockout-stage run set up another shot at the defending champions in the title match.
“It was nice having played them,” Pathman said. “We played them earlier in the year also. We both know each other really well. We kind of have similar styles, but we were confident going into this game.”
The confidence paid off for the underdogs.
In the 44th minute, U.S. right back Crystal Dunn found space down the right side of the field and played a low cross to the middle, going past forward Katie Stengel. A second American—midfielder Kealia Ohai—reached the ball near the penalty mark and fired the ball into the top left corner, breaking the scoreless tie.
“That’s what our goal was…to score the first goal and kind of put them on their heels,” Pathman said. “Germany played a great game, but we came out ready.”
The U.S. opened the second period with a one-goal advantage, but Germany and eventual Golden Ball winner Dzsenifer Marozsan, seemed poised to even the tally.
During the final 30 minutes of the match, the German squad accumulated a 9-1 corner kick advantage, rattled the crossbar in the 72nd minute, and put two dangerous attempts at goal on target during stoppage time.
Despite turning up its offensive intensity, Germany and Marozsan—who notched six assists and one goal in the tournament—could not penetrate the U.S. defense, thanks to the efforts of the back line in the 18-yard box as well as a game-high five saves from U.S. goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin.
“They definitely came out strong [in the second half] but I knew we weren’t losing that game,” Pathman said. “I knew they weren’t scoring. I could just feel it, and had total confidence in our whole team and our goalie.”