Canada, Mexico face off again in CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship semifinal
The tournament format has changed this year but there is a strong element of deja vu for Canada at the CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship.
The young Canadians face Mexico on Friday in the semifinal at Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, just as they did in the same venue at the same stage of last year's tournament.
The Canadians lost 1-0 in last year's semifinal before blanking Puerto Rico 2-0 to finish third. Mexico was beaten 2-0 by the United States in the final.
The two finalists and third-place side at the eight-team CONCACAF U-20 tournament qualify for next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup.
"It was our first time against Tier 1 opposition," Canada coach Cindy Tye, who was also in charge of the team last year, said of the 2022 semifinal. "This group we've had some more time together because of the nature of the way the qualifying has worked. So I think we're going to be more front-footed than the group last year just based on that experience."
As last year's finalists, the U.S. and Mexico skipped this year's qualifying.
Canada made it to the CONCACAF tournament by handily winning its qualifying group in the Dominican Republic in April. The Canadians defeated Martinique 15-0, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 12-0 and Cuba 4-0 before thumping previously unbeaten El Salvador 9-1.
Canada moved on to finish runner-up to the defending champion U.S. in Group A, downing Jamaica 4-0 and Panama 5-0 before falling 5-2 to the Americans, who downed Panama 6-0 and Jamaica 4-0.
Mexico went unbeaten in topping Group B, defeating the Dominican Republic 4-0, Puerto Rico 4-0 and Costa Rica 3-0.
"They're calm in possession, of course, and they do look to get in behind (the defence)," Tye said of the Mexicans. "And they have some great attacking players. But we also feel that we have the defensive mindset to be able to nullify them and get at them in our attack."
Canada lost two players to injury in Wednesday's U.S. game with defender Sophie Murdock and forward Amanda Allen having to come off in the 24th and 86th minute, respectively. Allen is the lone professional on the Canadian team, having signed with the NWSL Orlando Pride in early April.
Tye did not provide an update on their availability, saying she expected a report from her medical team later Thursday.
While Canada gave up two early goals and trailed 3-0 at the half against the U.S., Tye saw plenty of positives with the 2-2 scoreline in the second half.
"The kids were resilient and never gave up. That's the spirit we want," she said.
Last year, the CONCACAF tournament featured 20 teams — the 16 highest-ranked sides and four teams advancing from qualifying play.
Canada won the CONCACAF tournament in 2004 and 2008, defeating the U.S. both times, and was runner-up to the Americans in 2006, 2012 and 2015.
The Mexicans won the CONCACAF crown in 2018, defeating the U.S. in a penalty shootout in the final, and has finished runner-up to the Americans four times — including three of the last five tournaments.
The U.S. women have won seven CONCACAF championships at this level, including six of the last seven.
Canada has qualified for eight of the 10 previous FIFA U-20 Women's World Cups, finishing runner-up to the U.S. in 2002 when Canada hosted the event. The U.S. also won the U-20 World Cup in 2008 and 2012.
Mexico is looking to secure a 10th berth at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.