“Yes, we did it! We get to go to the World Cup” was what ran through Amandine Pierre-Louis’s head after Canada beat Mexico in the CONCACAF U-17 Championships semi-finals. She ranks that as her finest moment in football, but she's now out to make new memories in Azerbaijan.
After her first game in Group A she is already terrorising defences and with her goal against Nigeria she’s also ensured that she leaves her mark on the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2012.
She was the Canucks’ most consistent threat in the Tofig Bahramov Stadium but the North Americans were certainly put through their paces. “It was a hard game, Nigeria are a good team,” she told FIFA.com. “They are aggressive and are good technically but we went there and, though it was a bit stressful because it was the first game of the world cup, we did pretty well.”
“Of course they had some good chances, they hit the post a few times, but Kailen [Sheridan] our goalkeeper made some amazing saves but we found a way to score as we had a lot of chances too.”
Playing before hosts Azerbaijan and the opening ceremony the stadium in Baku was full bursting with noise, which was something of a two-sided coin for Pierre-Louis. “There were so many people it was crazy, I couldn’t hear what the coach was saying to me sometimes, but it was really nice, really exciting for sure and it’s fun to play in an atmosphere.”
She also believes Canada could go all the way, driven on by the likes of Christine Sinclair and the Canadian senior side’s bronze medal at the London Olympics. “I enjoyed it so much, when I look at them doing that it makes me realise it's possible, it’s a legacy they gave us and I want to do it too. It’s an inspiration for us.”
Their trip to the crossroads of Europe and Asia is the culmination of what’s been a great year for the 17-year-old from Montreal. While it was always a dream to represent her country, she only ever saw it as a possibility when receiving a call from coach Bryan Rosenfeld back in August 2011, when he was bringing together this latest side.
That has seen, by Pierre-Louis’s assessment, “a very tight unit” form and one that didn't concede a goal on the way to the final in Guatemala. It’s an experience she feels has set them up well for the global finals, but remains focussed on maintaining a high level of performance.
“We had a good tournament at CONCACAF but we have to keep working hard because all the teams who are here performed well within their continent, but I still think we have a good chance.”
The next challenge comes in the form of Colombia, whose Latin, possession-heavy style is a long-way from the quick, counter-attacking approach Canada employ. She admits that, because of Nigeria’s own pace, it was a ploy that didn’t always succeed but expects them to keep with it against the South Americans.
“We just have to play hard and stick to our game plan again. Colombia look like a good team and we saw the game against Azerbaijan, I don’t know how we are going to do it but we just have to play hard and, like against Nigeria, score goals to try to get the three points.”