PREVIEW: CanW20 faces Mexico in crucial Concacaf U20 Championship semi-final
It might not have ended the way they would’ve liked, but Canada’s Women’s National U20 team did what they needed to in order to advance to the semi-finals of the U20 Concacaf Championships this past week.
By virtue of wins over Jamaica and Panama in their first two group-stage games, that was enough to see them qualify for the next round no matter what happened in their last match against the US, keeping them in the hunt for a spot at the U20 World Cup, as well as the hunt for some silverware at this tournament.
Unfortunately, their road towards making those two goals happen did then get a bit more difficult after that last match, as they ended up losing to the US 5-2, leaving them to finish second in their group.
As a result, their semi-final will be against Mexico, who won the other group rather handily, finishing with three wins from three games by a combined total of 11-0.
A rematch of 2022’s U20 Championships semi-finals, where Mexico downed Canada 1-0 on an early goal, both teams will be eager for revenge, albeit for different reasons.
For Canada, their motivation will be clear - avenge that game, and return to the final of this tournament for the first time since 2015, where they lost 1-0 to the US. If they can do that, it’d be a huge boost for them, as they look to lift this trophy for the first time since 2008, 15 long years ago.
Leading the way for them this tournament has been forwards Olivia Smith, who has three goals in three games, and Amanda Allen, who has two goals in three games, and is the only professional player on Canada’s roster.
Elsewhere, defender Ella Ottey has put in some good performances, while forward Anabelle Chukwu has also done well when called upon.
Otherwise, Canada enters this game with some questions to answer defensively, as they gave away some cheap goals against the US, so look for them to try and return to the form that saw them nab two consecutive clean sheets in the two games prior.
A younger team, they’ll look to hit the reset button as quickly as possible, showing the importance of the chemistry that many of them have built throughout tournaments with the U17 and U20 teams since the start of 2022.
In terms of Mexico, they’ll look to prove that last year’s victory over Canada was no fluke, while also looking for revenge in the final, which they then lost 2-0 to the US. A rematch that’s once again possible in this year’s final, Mexico is on the hunt for their second-ever triumph in this tournament, having beat the US in penalties in the 2018 tournament.
Led by the dangerous Maribel Flores, who has four goals in three games, and supplemented by players such as Canadian-Mexico dual-national Tatiana Flores, midfielder Hailey Gordon, and many more, this is a team filled with all sorts of professional experience, and is one that has played with each other extensively dating back to last U20 cycle, giving them a huge edge over Canada in both categories.
After narrowly falling to eventual champions Spain 1-0 at last year’s World Cup, this team feels it has another gear to hit, and will want to prove that by not just getting by Canada, but winning the entire tournament proper.
Because of that, this game should have no shortage of emotion and fuel, especially when you factor in its overall importance for both sides, as well as in the context of the tournament.
As a reminder, the winner of this game will be assured a spot at the 2024 U20 World Cup as well as a ticket to the final of the U20 Championships, while the loser will have to face the loser of the other semi-final in a third place match, where the winner of that will be Concacaf’s third representative at the World Cup.
Meanwhile, in the other semi-final, the US faces Costa Rica later on Friday in a match both Canada and Mexico will be keeping a close eye on after their matchup, albeit for differing reasons as one of them will be preparing for a final and the other a do-or-die qualifying match.
Catch Canada vs Mexico at 12 pm PT/3 pm ET LIVE on OneSoccer.