Two games, two wins for Canada’s Under-17 squad – and their dreams of reaching this year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup are alive and well.
Canada pulled off a 3-2 comeback victory over Costa Rica on Monday night, three days after a tournament-opening 3-1 win over Haiti on Saturday.
The Canadian squad got off to a rough start against the Ticos, with Vancouver Whitecaps residency player Kadin Chung (who scored against Haiti) conceding a penalty early in the first half. Jonathan Martinez buried the spot kick to put Costa Rica up 1-0 in the 17th minute.
“It’s certainly not the coach’s plan [to go behind]. It’s football. Things happen like that, and I think that, in youth football especially, mistakes are made,” head coach Sean Fleming said after the game. “How you respond to things is very important, and we try to emphasize that with our players at all times. That’s going to be the true sign of character.”
Canada showed that character in the 31st minute, when Duwayne Ewart scored his second goal of the competition to level things at 1-1.
At halftime, Canadian captain and Whitecaps residency player Matthew Baldisimo – who appeared to get his leg caught up with an opponent in the first half – was replaced by Stoke City's Kosovar Sadiki.
Shortly after the break, Costa Rica recaptured the advantage, when Andy Reyes capitalized on a turnover. But then the comeback was on.
Some movement from Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla in the Costa Rica area earned Canada a penalty of their own, converted by Whitecaps residency striker Daniel Sagno in the 57th minute.
“It was a tough first half,” said Tabla. “There was a lot of running, and we didn’t really get comfortable. But we found our rhythm in the second half and played much better.”
In the 67th minute, Sadiki completed the comeback when he got on the end of a corner kick to make it 3-2.
“We’ve been practicing set pieces in our training sessions, and in the end, it worked out,” said Sadiki. “It was a great ball by [Harrison Paton], and we executed what the coaches told us to do. It feels amazing. We’ve been working hard, and it’s all paid off.”
Canada have three group-stage matches remaining, against Mexico (Friday), Saint Lucia (Monday) and Panama (March 12). The group winners earn a spot in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile (Oct. 17-Nov. 8), while the second- and third-place finishers face a one-game playoff with a World Cup berth on the line.
The showdown with Mexico could very well decide which team will top the group, but the Canadian players are just focusing on that game, rather than the big picture.
“Mexico will be a big challenge, but they’re just one team, so we’ll take them on,” said Tabla. “Just like if it was Brazil, we’ll take them on.”
Canada: Luciano Trasolini; Matthew Baldisimo (Kosovar Sadiki 46), Kadin Chung, Gabriel Boakye, Thomas Micoski; Duwayne Ewart (Malik Johnson 71), Munir Saleh, Harrison Paton, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, Tristan Borges; Daniel Sagno (Terran Campbell 88).