Canada beats North Korea 1-0, advances to U-20 quarter-finals
Canada 1 North Korea 0
MONTREAL — The Canadian junior women’s soccer team is gaining momentum at the women’s under-20 World Cup.
A 1-0 victory over North Korea on Tuesday night has put Canada into the quarter-finals feeling good about itself, even if their next opponent will be the powerhouse Germans.
“We were relentless,” said Janine Beckie, who was camped at the far post to put in Nichelle Prince’s pass in the 65th minute for the game’s only goal. “It feels amazing. We’re moving on.”
Canada finished second in Group A and plays the Germans, who were first in Group B, on Saturday in Edmonton.
Despite the loss, North Korea finished first in their four-team group on goal differential and will play the United States on Saturday in Toronto.
The Canadians needed the win to stay ahead of Ghana, which beat Finland 2-1 in Moncton, N.B. to tie the host country’s 2-1 record. But the Africans were eliminated on goals for and against.
Canada, which opened with a 1-0 loss to Ghana, looked dead in the water when it fell behind 2-0 to Finland last Saturday, but Beckie scored to ignite a three-goal second half rally.
Then she scored the game-winner against the toughest opponent in the group.
Penetrating the tight North Korean defence had been struggle all night as the visitors, who needed only a draw to clinch first place, allowed little space anywhere near the 18-yard box.
Amandine Pierre-Louis, who got an ovation from her hometown crowd when she substituted in at the 60th minute for her first action of the tournament, started the play with a run down the right side.
She crossed in for Nichelle Prince, who slipped the ball behind the defence to an unguarded Beckie at the far post.
“It was going through my head: ’Don’t miss this,’ so I put it in and I was really excited,” said Beckie.
Canada is hoping to get on the kind of roll it experienced in 2002, when a team led by Christine Sinclair made it to the final and drew a massive crowd at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium at what was then the world U-19 championship.
Germany, which crushed Brazil 5-1 just ahead of the Canada-North Korea game, will be a formidable opponent. The Germans scored 12 goals in their three group stage games.
“I don’t think we could be more ready,” said Beckie. “It’s just another team for us.
“It’s a great opponent. I’m excited to play them, personally, but I think where we’re at now will keep propelling us through.”
A scoreless first half saw North Korea control most of the play in the first 30 minutes, but there were good chances at both ends.
Only 10 minutes in, Kim Mi Gyong shot over the bar from close range, but Kailen Sheridan’s best save was in the 17th when after a clever buildup, Ri Kyong Hyong got in alone on the left side and blasted the ball from point blank range.
Coach Andrew Olivieri’s side picked up the pace near the end of the half and nearly cashed in on an Emma Fletcher cross into the box.
Then Ashley Lawrence placed a near-perfect high ball to the front of the net, but Beckie’s header was kept out by a diving save from goalkeeper Kim Chol Ok.
Olivieri said the match may have been less exciting for the 13,031 fans scattered about the 55,000-seat stadium than he hoped, but said the North Korean side did what they could to slow down the play and make it a low-scoring game.
But the fans that showed up were noisy and the players could feel the support from the seats.
“They were crazy, it was insane,” said Prince. “Especially with this huge stadium.
“It was an honour to be able to play in it. The crowd was amazing.”
Prince said a win over a favourite like North Korea has morale high going into the quarter-finals.
“It means a lot,” she said. “Coming into this tournament, we wanted to inspire little girls and inspire Canada, and I think we’re on our route to doing that.
“We still have a lot of work to do in this tournament. We’re half way there. We’re ready for what’s to come.”
Centreback Kadeisha Buchanan was named player of the match.
North Korea coach Hwang Yong Bong said that since his team was all-but guaranteed to advance, he wanted them to conserve energy for the next match. He had scoring star Ri Un Sim start on the bench because she had an injury in her last game. She went in two minutes into the second half.