For the first time in 16 years, Canada will be heading to the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The Canadian team qualified by virtue of a 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday. First-half goals by Chris Nanco and Toronto FC Academy standout Keven Aleman (above) were enough to ensure that the Red and White moved on to the semifinals of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship (which doubles as World Cup qualification) in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The Canadians pressed their opponents from the opening whistle, perhaps wary that the 99-degree temperature at kickoff would likely give an advantage to the Trinidadians as the match progressed. The plan worked, as the young Canucks dominated possession for the majority of the first half.
It only took 15 minutes for the Canadian pressure to finally crack the Soca Warriors defense, with Nanco heading in a long throw-in that bounced untouched through the Trinidadian six-yard box. Five minutes later, Aleman sealed the victory by taking on four defenders and firing a blistering shot into the Trini goal from just outside the area.
Canada continued to pour it on after taking the two-goal lead, but a lack of finishing prevented the game from truly getting out of reach. Aleman and TFC Academy teammate Michael Petrasso were particularly dangerous in the first half, repeatedly giving the Soca Warriors fits with their quick passing and interplay through the middle of the pitch.
After the halftime break, the Canadians were content to sit back and allow their opponents more time on the ball, taking on a more counterattacking stance in the second half. T&T couldn’t take full advantage, however, and only managed to muster up a few half-chances before time ran out.
With the shutout, Canada remain the only team in the championship to have not allowed a goal, outscoring their opponents 10-0 in three matches thus far.
Canada will now face Panama on Friday for the right to play in the final of the CONCACAF tournament, but the real prize – a trip to Mexico to play in the U-17 World Cup later this year – has already been won.