Canada under-17 goalkeeper Kayza Massey is shown during training in Montevideo, Uruguay, in this recent handout photo. Canada coach Rhian Wilkinson is proud of the diversity and accomplishments of her Canadian team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay. “It’s Canada in a nutshell isn’t it?” said Wilkinson, who won 181 caps for Canada as a player. “It’s what we pride ourselves in being — a team that represents many different faiths and ethnicities and people groups … I’m proud we’re a good representation of our country.” Exhibit No. 1 is 17-year-old Ghana-born goalkeeper Kayza Massey, adopted as a baby by Ottawa nurse Karen Massey. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Canada Soccer

Canada under-17 goalkeeper Kayza Massey is shown during training in Montevideo, Uruguay, in this recent handout photo. Canada coach Rhian Wilkinson is proud of the diversity and accomplishments of her Canadian team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay. “It’s Canada in a nutshell isn’t it?” said Wilkinson, who won 181 caps for Canada as a player. “It’s what we pride ourselves in being — a team that represents many different faiths and ethnicities and people groups … I’m proud we’re a good representation of our country.” Exhibit No. 1 is 17-year-old Ghana-born goalkeeper Kayza Massey, adopted as a baby by Ottawa nurse Karen Massey. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Canada Soccer

Young Canadian women looking to reach final at FIFA U-17 World Cup

Coach Rhian Wilkinson dismisses any suggestion that Canada, just one win away from the championship game, is a team of destiny at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.

Hard work and talent have powered this squad.

“Not destiny because they’ve worked very hard at it,” the former Canadian international said from Montevideo. “I’ve played a long time and the teams that are successful in tournaments are the ones that grow through them.

“We had some wonderful moments where we showed our real resilience and we took some knocks on the way to get here. Every one of those moments (was) important to where the team is now.”

Canada plays Mexico at Montevideo’s Estadio Charrua on Wednesday after New Zealand plays Spain in the other semifinal. The winners meet Saturday, hoping to join France, Japan, South Korea and North Korea (twice) as under-17 world champions.

Four of those finals (2008, 2010, 2012 and 2016) went to extra time or penalty shootouts.

Canada, Mexico and New Zealand are all first-time semifinalists at this level. Spain, which beat Canada 5-0 in round-robin play, reached the semifinals in 2010, 2014 (when it reached the final) and 2016.

Wilkinson’s team is already in rare territory. Canada’s previous best finish at the U-17 tournament was seventh in 2008 and 2012.

The only Canadian team to do better — male or female — at a FIFA world championship is the 2002 squad, featuring a 19-year-old Christine Sinclair, that finished runner-up to the U.S. on home soil at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship.

Wilkinson’s crew has already at the least matched the fourth-place finish by the Canadian senior team at the 2003 Women’s World Cup.

Canada reached the semifinal by beating Germany 1-0 Sunday on the strength of captain Jordyn Huitema’s 83rd-minute goal. It started with a lung-busting run from Caitlin Shaw, who found Kaila Novak on the left flank.

Huitema, showing her predatory skills, glided into space between two defenders to knock in Novak’s cross for Canada’s first win in a FIFA women’s youth tournament knockout match since 2002.

“I thought they played with a maturity that they’ve been building throughout the tournament. In terms of just living on the ball and feeling what they are capable of,” said Wilkinson, her voice still hoarse from the quarterfinal.

“I think maybe it’s surprising people back home but this is a whole new generation of Canadian player coming through.”

For Wilkinson, the team is showing confidence and creativity on the ball.

“The structure is coming alive, which is the next generation,” she said.

The other three quarterfinals went to penalty shootouts. Mexico dispatched Ghana 4-2 on penalty kicks after the game finished 2-2.

Like Mexico, the Canadian women had a long hard road to Uruguay.

CONCACAF pulled the plug on its regional qualifier in April after just six games in Nicaragua because of unrest in the capital, Managua. The tournament was rescheduled to June in Florida.

Mexico beat Canada 2-1 in the semifinals, only to lose 3-2 to the U.S. in the championship game. Canada secured the final qualifying berth for Uruguay by edging Haiti 2-1 in the third-place game on an 89th-minute goal by Andersen Williams.

Wilkinson says Canada did not play well to start against Mexico back in June.

“The first half I don’t know who that Canadian team was because it wasn’t the one I’m used to seeing. They’ve learned a ton since then.”

Canada was forced to change coaches in August after Bev Priestman quit to join the English women’s coaching staff. The 36-year-old Wilkinson, a veteran of 181 senior internationals and seen as a future senior women’s coach, was elevated from assistant coach.

Wilkinson put her own stamp on the roster, bringing in six new faces from the qualifying tournament roster.

Huitema, who has scored three of Canada’s six goals at the tournament, is just the third Canadian player to score in four different FIFA women’s youth matches, joining Sinclair and Brittany Timko.

It’s been a remarkable year for Huitema. She has played for the senior team eight times (with four goals), represented Canada at the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship and is now captaining the under-17 team.

The five-foot-10 striker has also endured some drama as she was sent off in a group game in Uruguay for an errant elbow in an aerial challenge against South Korea. It was an accident, Huitema said after the first red card of her career.

While leading her team through the tournament, Huitema is still pondering her future. She says she has narrowed her college choice to Stanford or UCLA.

Canada, Germany, Ghana, Japan, New Zealand and North Korea are the only countries to have qualified for every edition of the U-17 champion since its inception in 2008.

Just Posted

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read