EDMONTON — Canada’s young soccer women are on a roll again and they’re returning to Commonwealth Stadium, the raucous scene of that near-glorious run their predecessors made in 2002. By upsetting powerful North Korea 1-0 at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday night, the Canadians advanced from Group A into the quarter-finals of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup. Ghana, which defeated Canada 1-0 in the tournament opener, also finished with two victories and a loss, a 3-0 shutout by North Korea, which proved the difference, as Canada finished ahead of the African side on goal differential. It was back in ’02, at the then U19 Women’s World Cup, that Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang, Erin McLeod and their teammates galvanized their country, powering all the way to the gold-medal final of the inaugural tournament, losing a heartbreaker in extra time in front of 47,000 fans at Commonwealth and a sizable national TV audience. This time around, names like Kadeisha Buchanan, Sura Yekka and Kailen Sheridan are gaining currency outside soccer circles, as Canada has once again fashioned more tournament drama. It was Montreal’s Amandine Pierre-Louis who got the play started, threading a pass to Prince, who found an unmarked Beckie for an easy tap-in. All they had to do was beat North Korea, a strong side that won this tournament in 2006, obviously a daunting task. Canada played to crowds of 14,834 and 16,503 at Toronto’s BMO Field at its first two matches, but expect the throng in Edmonton to easily top those, at least if history is a guide.
The ’02 Canadian team was based in Edmonton and it gained support at the gate as the tournament progressed and even casual soccer fans became enamoured of the personable teenage stars for whom that tournament was a coming-out party.
This time out, Canada played its group games in Toronto and Montreal, while Edmonton was the site of some marvellous action from Germany, USA, China and Brazil.
Canada has not been back on the podium since that silver-medal performance in ’02 and they’re a long way from having another go at it. The Germans, who hammered Brazil 5-1 on Tuesday, have outscored their opponents 12-6 in three tournament games so far.


If the Germans have a weakness, head coach Maren Meinert has acknowledged, it’s their back-line defence, as that wild goalfest against China demonstrated.
Germany, a country with about one million registered female players, about the same as Canada has total registered players, male and female, should be considered the favourite Saturday. Members of Canadaa€™s U-20 womena€™s World Cup soccer team at Yonge-Dundas Square last month, from left: Sura Yekka, Rebecca Quinn, Nichelle Prince, Amandine Pierre-Louis and captain Kinley McNicoll. Legendary Canadian soccer broadcaster Gerry Dobson stacked it up against the greatest moments in Canadian sports history. Christine Sinclair, a wide-eyed teenager who won the Golden Ball, led the Canadians on to the pitch before an eventual 1-0 loss in extra time. The interest will be the same, if not bigger, if this Canadian team, which drew inspiration from Rustad and others 12 years ago, navigates a group containing Ghana, Finland and North Korea. Expect Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to be jam-packed if the young Canucks return to the final three weeks from now. Having already gone toe-to-toe with some of the best strikers in the world, Buchanan will be instrumental in Canada progressing at this tournament. Fullback Yekka, also of Toronto, will be next to her, having already earned a handful of senior caps at age 17. Fleming, of London, Ont., as Rustad mentioned, is another player to watch, having excelled at the under-17 level for Canada.
As someone who has been in their shoes, Rustad has advice for a group of girls who are likely feeling an immense amount of pressure to perform at home. Proportions only witnessed more than a decade ago when a group of Canadian teens walked on to the Commonwealth pitch before a match now heralded as one of the greatest events in Canadian sports history.


It’s just the beginning for a group of 21 girls who will don the maple leaf beginning Tuesday night at BMO Field.
Although it’s believed the United States might also be in line to host the tournament in 2026, Blatter seemed to throw support behind a potential Canadian bid Monday. Both Canada and North Korea finished with six points each on two victories and a loss, but the Koreans claimed first place on goal differential. Her crucial goal against Korea caused Maple Leaf flags to flutter among a small but boisterous crowd of 13,031 at the 55,000-seat Big O. The loss to Ghana, an unexpected setback, left little margin for error in a short tournament. Germany, winners of the tournament in ’04 and ’10, have a deep, structured and skilled team. The Canadian midfielder has already appeared for Canada’s full national team at age 16.
It was the second goal of the tournament for Beckie, who also scored in a Canadian 3-2 comeback victory over Finland. Honestly, that extends beyond sports in Canada, but the support given to youth teams is a microcosm of a truly Canadian outlook on the world. But it rallied to win 3-2, giving it a shot at the knockout round of the 16-team tournament.




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