Janine Beckie’s goal in the 65th minute gave Canada’s Women’s U-20 Team a 1:0 victory over Korea DPR and also booked them a spot in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014.
In the end, Canada needed the win as Ghana came back from a goal down in Moncton to knock off Finland 2:1 in the other Group A encounter. Had Canada only pulled out a draw with Korea, Ghana would have advanced in Canada’s place.
Instead, Canada now packs up and will fly to Edmonton where they’ll take on Germany, who won Group B, and looks to be one of the teams in form in the tournament. Germany trounced Brazil 5:1 earlier in the day after beating the United States and playing China to a draw in earlier games.
Canada couldn’t find much space behind the Korean back line as they chose to play quite deep against a very quick Canadian team.
Korea had a few chances in the first half but Canada wasn’t without their opportunities. Just past the halfway mark, Emma Fletcher eluded two Korean defenders and launched a cross in from the right side. Both Beckie and Valerie Sanderson were in position to convert but neither got the decisive touch on the ball.
Sanderson had a chance late in the half when she got her head to a cross from the left side but it was denied by a diving save from the Korean goalkeeper.
The introductions of Sanderson and Beckie paid immediate dividends on Friday when Canada came back from behind to beat Finland 3:2 and once again, an inspired substitution from Head Coach Andrew Olivieri turned the tide in the Canadians’ favour.
Minutes after Amandine Pierre-Louis came into the game for Fletcher, Canada took the lead. Pierre-Louis fed a pass on the right side to Nichelle Prince and her cross to the back post found Beckie all alone in space and she calmly directed the ball down and into the net.
Not that the players had any idea but Ghana’s late winner in Moncton made for some nervous final few moments are Korea pressed late for an equalizer that would have eliminated Canada but it never came and the more than 13,000 fans let out a cheer of relief as full time arrived.
“We knew that we were going to need a goal at some point. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls to get that result,” said Head Coach Andrew Olivieri, who scored the biggest result of his coaching career, and in his hometown, no less.
“We knew it wouldn’t be an easy match. North Korea were all but qualified going into it but we knew that they were going to be certain that they can play a very smart match which made it more difficult for us to win.”
Both the performance and the result marked a continued progression and evolution of this Canadian team in the tournament. After the 1:0 defeat to Ghana and a first half against Finland where Canada was down two goals, Canada has stepped up and gotten better with each step they take on the field. Had they not been faced with this early adversity with the tournament, it’s quite possible Tuesday’s game at the Olympic Stadium would have gone much differently.
A win against a tough Korean team was one thing but with the pressure of a home tournament on top of that, it makes the result all the more impressive.
“We’ve been at our best when we’ve been able to run at defenses and running behind them,” said Olivieri, who made the shrewd decision to introduce Amandine Pierre-Louis in front of her hometown. That decision paid dividends, as Pierre-Louis was involved in the build up to Beckie’s goal.
“Without that space it became difficult so we just had to find a different way. We needed some individual quality to make the difference and we’re lucky we got that.”