USA’s dominance of the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship continued earlier this month, when they clinched the title for the fifth time in seven attempts and the fourth time in a row to secure a place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016. Joining them at the world finals will be runners-up Canada and third-placed Mexico.
Held in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the regional tournament threw up few surprises, with the Americans proving deadly in front of goal and the Canadians and Mexicans making the most of their defensive strengths, their impressive rearguards breached only by the eventual champions. *FIFA.com *rounds up the highlights of the ten-day competition.
*USA in a league of their own *Facing off in the opening match in Group B, USA and Mexico wasted little time in showing the quality that was to sustain them both throughout the tournament. Playing a dynamic, attacking brand of football, The Stars and Stripes met their match in a well-organised Tri side, who held firm to secure a creditable 2-2 draw.
The Americans went on to record respective 6-1 and 6-0 victories over Panama and Haiti to qualify in style for the semi-finals, where they overpowered the competition hosts 7-0 to clinch their ticket to Papua New Guinea in the most emphatic style. Waiting for them in the final were Canada, with a solitary strike from Ashley Sanchez 18 minutes from time giving USA regional title number five.
“We won it by playing our in our usual game, trying to play good football the whole time,” said the match-winner, who ended the tournament with three goals and five assists to her name.
Following their opening-day draw with the eventual champions, Mexico made short work of the Haitians and the Panamanians, easing to respective 5-0 and 2-0 wins. Their run ended with a 5-4 penalty-shootout defeat to Canada in the semis, which left them to fight it out with Honduras for third place and the last remaining place at next year’s world finals, a fight the Mexicans won 2-0. “We played with intensity and total commitment and we’ve made the World Cup. I’m delighted,” commented Jacqueline Crowther, who was on target for Mexico against Las Catrachas.
Resolute Canada progress
Drawn into Group A, Canada were the only side in the competition to advance to the last four with a 100-percent record, the Canucks scoring 11 goals and conceding none to see off Honduras, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Though no fewer than five members of their line-up are only 16, the Canadians proved an effective and highly focused unit.
A tight semi-final encounter with Mexico went to penalties, a situation not unfamiliar to the two goalkeepers on duty, Emily Alvarado and Rylee Foster, who were between the posts when the two countries contested a shootout in the final of the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship.
While Alvarado came away smiling on that occasion, it was Foster’s turn to celebrate this time, after Tri defender Vanessa Flores missed her spot-kick. “I said to her [Alvarado]: ‘Here we are again’, and she was laughing,” said the Canadian keeper. “We’ve faced off in a lot of tournaments and we have a good relationship.”
In the final against USA, the Canadians came up just short after conceding their one and only goal of the tournament.
*Elsewhere *Despite having home advantage, Honduras just missed out on what would have been their first U-20 world finals berth. Runners-up in Group A, their heavy defeat to USA in the last four followed by the 2-0 reverse to Mexico in the match for third place left them just short of their objective.
Meanwhile, Panama proved a major disappointment and went home early after losing all three of their games and registering just three goals.