Mexico take maiden title

Alongside hosts Costa Rica, Mexico and Canada will represent the North, Central America and Caribbean region at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014. The two countries guaranteed their places in the final of the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship 2013 in Jamaica by beating USA and Jamaica, respectively, in the semi-finals. The Stars and Stripes finished third after routing the host nation 8-0 in the match for third place. recaps the key events of the tournament below.

First time for Mexico
For the first time in the country’s history, Mexico were crowned continental champions in the Women’s U-17 category after they beat Canada 4–2 on penalties. The two teams met in the final with qualification for the U-17 Women’s World Cup already guaranteed and only regional bragging rights up for grabs.

The 90 minutes were dominated by two well organised defences, and ended goalless after both teams chose to focus on nullifying the opposition’s attacks. Significantly, the Mexicans were able to shackle Marie Mychele Metivier, the competition’s leading scorer with six goals, before taking advantage of some weak Canadian penalties in the shoot-out to lift the trophy. 

"We showed tremendous commitment. We knocked the best team on the planet, the USA, out of the World Cup, and now we need to redouble our efforts to make sure we’re ready for the competition. We want Mexico and CONCACAF to have a successful tournament," said Mexican coach Leonardo Cuellar. 

The route to the final
Mexico’s campaign was far from routine, however. The team made it to the semi-finals thanks to a win and two draws, and finished in second spot in Group A. Jamaica, with two wins and a draw, came top. 

As a result El Tri faced USA, who won all their games to lead Group B, leaving Canada in second place. The odds certainly seemed to favour the Stars and Stripes, who scored 17 goals and conceded none in the group phase, thrashing Trinidad and Tobago 8-0 and Guatemala 7-0, as well as beating Canada 2-0. Mexico, on the other hand, had drawn with Haiti (1-1), brushed aside El Salvador (7-0) and drawn with Jamaica (1-1). 

But fortune smiled on Mexico. After just five minutes, Briana Woodall headed them in front, forcing USA to chase the game. Although the equaliser came on 27 minutes through Madison Haley, Mexico held on, before winning 4-2 on penalties to secure a place at Costa Rica 2014. It will be the third time that the country has participated in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. USA, meanwhile who have played in every tournament except 2010, will be forced to watch at home on TV. 

"Everything went just as we planned," said Leonardo Cuellar. "We knew that if we surprised the USA we could knock them out of their stride and make them lose confidence. And even when they equalised we kept our heads. We knew we were up against a good team. We maintained our shape and our discipline, and the change we made at half time, playing five at the back, really helped." 

Canada, meanwhile, also reached the semi-finals courtesy of a couple of emphatic victories: 8-0 over Guatemala and 11-0 against Trinidad and Tobago. The team guaranteed its place in the final with a 5-0 defeat of Jamaica, maintaining the successful tradition of the Canadian youngsters, who have never failed to qualify for the World Cup in this age category.