Three goals in 23 minutes, an early rest and the feeling of a job well done: that was Canadian forward Adriana Leon’s evening in a nutshell as her side made a winning start to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012.
Leon’s first-half hat-trick put Canada’s opening win against Argentina beyond doubt before the interval, and allowed her coach, Andrew Olivieri, to start planning ahead for his team’s next encounter with Norway. With his side already 5-0 up, Olivieri's first move was to withdraw his star forward at half-time and spare her 45 minutes of unnecessary exertion.
“It honestly didn’t bother me,” said Leon, the tournament’s joint-top scorer with USA’s Maya Hayes. “In any case, he [Olivieri] is the one who makes the decisions. When he told me I was going to be subbed, I accepted it without any problems. It was an intelligent decision. It was more important to start thinking about the next match and to not waste too much energy.”
“I’m not the type of player who goes out looking to score as many goals as possible,” continued Leon, highlighting a clear difference between her and the forward she admires most, Cristiano Ronaldo. “I scored three in the first half, so I felt that I’d done my job.”
Indeed, the game was already well won by the time Leon had completed her hat-trick – a treble which, incidentally, was a real showcase of her qualities. She was in the right place at the right time for her first goal, showed fine composure to bury her second in the top corner after a one-on-one with Argentina's goalkeeper, and displayed great perseverance to ride a tackle before smashing home her third.
Hard work and inspiration
Leon’s talents call to mind those of another Canadian markswoman, Christine Sinclair, a player with 143 international goals to her name and counting. “She’s a role model for me and every forward in Canada,” Leon said.
With her hat-trick against Argentina, University of Notre Dame striker Leon became the third Canuck to score a treble at a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, after Sinclair – who hit five goals in one match in 2002 – and Brittany Timko in 2004. “What she [Sinclair] and her team-mates did at the Olympic tournament, when they won the bronze medal, has inspired and motivated us for this competition,” Leon said.
Leon knows, however, that while inspiration and motivation are always welcome, they will never be a substitute for hard work. “To score one goal at a World Cup is fantastic, so to score three is really incredible,” she said. “It feels like all the work and hours of training are paying off at exactly the right time.”
With extra fuel in the tank after her brief 45-minute outing against Argentina, Leon will no doubt be confident of continuing her scoring streak against Norway.