Alta High School’s Kealia Ohai leads U.S. women to U20 World Cup title
Women’s soccer • North Carolina junior scores in 44th minute to end Germany’s record shutout streak.
Published: September 11, 2012 07:32PM
Updated: December 25, 2012 11:31PM
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Kealia Ohai, ,center, of the United States celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Germany during their final match of the U20 women's World Cup in Tokyo, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Tokyo • The United States won the women’s under-20 World Cup for the third time, defeating defending champion Germany 1-0 Saturday on a goal by Alta HIgh School graduate Kealia Ohai in the 44th minute.

Crystal Dunn beat a German defender in the penalty area and squared a pass to Ohai, who sent a right-footed shot over goalkeeper Laura Benkarth. It was the first goal Germany gave up in the tournament.

“I saw Crystal making a run and every time she does that you know she is going to get something in the box,” said Ohai, who is a junior at North Carolina and led Alta to four straight state championships from 2006-2009. “I sprinted as fast as I could and she got the ball to me and I just squared it.”

Earlier Saturday, Japan downed Nigeria 2-1 in the third-place game. Yoko Tanaka and Asuka Nishikawa scored for Japan and Desire Oparanozie had Nigeria’s goal.

The U.S. and Germany also met in the group stage, with the Germans winning 3-0 on Aug. 27 in Miyagi. The Americans also captured this tournament in 2002 and 2008. Germany won in 2004 and 2010.

“It was a great performance by our team,” U.S. coach Steve Swanson said. “It’s a reflection of a lot of people’s efforts. We had some adversity in the group stage but the players learned from that and our character showed tonight.”

Germany pressed forward in the second half, but the Americans defended staunchly to protect the lead. Leonie Maier rattled the crossbar in the 72nd minute and came close again with a long shot in the final minute, but U.S. goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin made a good save.

“Our defense got better and better as the tournament went on,” Swanson said. “They deserve a lot of credit, and when I say that I include the goalkeeper. We needed to stay compact. We got a little stretched out against Germany in the first game against them so we knew we needed to be better defensively and that was a key to our winning tonight.”

Germany scored 15 goals in the group stage, but couldn’t find a way to break through in the final.

“I don’t think beating them 3-0 had any implications for today’s match,” Germany coach Maren Meinert said. “Playing the United States is always tough. We gave up a goal in the first half and that made it harder for the players to respond and it was a totally different situation than the first time we played them.”