Canuck sucker-punch fells Ghana
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Canada opened their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Arima with a slim 1-0 win over African hopefuls Ghana. In a Group D match that failed to sparkle, Ghana often looked the better side. However, the North Americans’ patient game plan paid dividends and earned them all three points in what is being labelled the 'group of death' here at these finals.

The game began with both sides looking well aware of the stakes, playing cautiously and unwilling to commit too much into attack. Slowly, though, Ghana began to loosen up and take control of the contest with a nice combination of speed and passing precision. With the Canadians sitting back on their heels, the West Africans began to carve out chances. After 18 minutes Alice Danso embarked on a solo run up the left flank and fired a vicious strike that had Sabrina D’Angelo diving well to push the ball to safety. Just seconds later ain indirect free-kick in the Canadian box was blocked well and came to nothing for the suddenly impressive Ghanaians.

Abigail Raymer created the only Canadian chance of note in the opening period with a decent shot from distance in the 25th minute that flew directly into the arms of goalkeeper Margaret Otoo, a veteran of New Zealand 2008. The Canadians were lucky not to concede a second goal in the remaining minutes of the half as Mary Essiful got on the end of a neat bit of interplay, but failed to drive her effort at goal. Captain Beatrice Sesu then had three chances in quick succession, all shots from distance. Two of them sailed harmlessly wide, but the other forced the inspired D’Angelo into a fine save.

The contest continued in much the same manner after the interval, with Ghana dictating the patterns and Canada sitting back and waiting for a break. One of those rare forays forward brought an unlikely goal for the North Americans, very much against the run of play. After earning a corner-kick from a clever and speedy counterattack, Haisha Cantave rose highest in the Ghanaian penalty area to put the Canucks into a surprise 1-0 lead. The celebrations that followed spoke as much to shock as to the joy of going a goal to the good.

The air seemed to go out of the Ghanaians after that, and they were unable to conjure an equaliser as fatigue began to show in both teams near the end. The Canadians, who finished top of their CONCACAF qualifying competition, will next meet the Republic of Ireland in Arima on 9 September. Ghana, for their part, will be eager to get their first point when they take on mighty Brazil that same day.