Canadian goalkeeper Quillan Roberts has booted his way into the record books with his goal against England at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The 16-year-old Toronto FC academy ’keeper boomed a kick from just inside his side of the halfway line with time winding down and Canada trailing 2-1 in Pachuca, Mexico.
Then he watched as the ball bounced over a pair of players trying to get their head onto it and into the net over the lunging English goalie.
“How it happened was a bit of a surprise for all of us,” Canadian coach Sean Fleming said Thursday by way of understatement.
The 87th-minute goal Wednesday gave Canada a 2-2 tie and its first point at the under-17 tournament after 14 straight losses. It also marked the first goal scored by a goalkeeper in any FIFA 11-a-side finals competition.
FIFA called it historic. England’s Football Association was less charitable, labelling it a “a freak clearance” in its game report.
Either way, it was warmly welcomed by Canadian soccer.
In 15 games at the tournament, Canada has been outscored 47-5 with Roberts and teammate Sadi Jalali joining Guido Titotto (1987) and Patrice Bernier (1995) as the country’s lone goal-scorers.
The other Canadian score came via an Argentine own goal in 1989.
Roberts only got the start after star goalie Maxime Crepeau suffered a knee injury in the dying minutes of Canada’s opening 3-0 loss to Uruguay on Sunday. Roberts replaced him that game, giving up a late goal.
Roberts did not find out he was starting against England until the day of the game.
A native of Brampton, Ont., who will be entering Grade 12 this fall, Roberts has spent the last few months with the TFC academy. He lives at home, goes to school and then trains with the team.
Roberts said he was taken aback when England’s attackers did not pressure him as he began to take the ball out of his penalty box prior to the goal.
“They left me alone and just allowed me to come up as far as I wanted,” he said. “I was surprised because earlier in the game I had taken a touch or two out (of the box) and they pressured me, so I wasn’t to sure what they were thinking. And I just kept coming up.”
When he booted it upfield, he said he expected nothing different than any other kick.
“Definitely not. I thought I was just going to aim for our target player, Sadi Jalali and hope for the best.”
But when he saw that it had eluded Jalali and his defender, he knew the goal was his when it bounced over his counterpart.
“I knew it was my goal immediately and I just started celebrating immediately with the backline.”
Roberts has not let the goal go to his Mohawk-wearing head, however.
“We have a lot of competition left so I’ve got to focus and get ready for the game on Saturday,” he said.
Fleming said Roberts will get the start Saturday against Rwanda in Pachuca.
“To be fair, it’s not just scoring the goal but his overall performance in dealing with crosses and shot-stopping and such would warrant that he would gets the start on Saturday,” said Fleming.
A win against Rwanda and Canada has a chance to advance to the round of 16.
The top two teams in each of the six groups and the four-best third place teams advance to the knockout stage.
Rwanda is 0-2 at the tournament but it took a goal five minutes into injury time for Uruguay to beat the Africans. The African region runners-up were beaten 2-0 by England in their opening match.
“I know they’re a quality side,” said Fleming.