• Wednesday Jan 27, 2010

    Canada, United States head into semis as favorites

    GUATEMALA CITY - It looks like another North American grudge match could decide the CONCACAF Under-20 Women's title.

    Both the United States and Canada advanced to the semifinals unbeaten and untied through the group stage, dominating their opponents and only allowing one goal each in three games.

    However, both have to get through the knockout semis on Thursday, which will be a repeat of two years ago in Mexico, when the United States beat Costa Rica 4-0, and Canada edged Mexico 2-1.

    The United States will face Costa Rica in the first semifinal at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern) with Canada against Mexico following at 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern).

    "Costa Rica is an excellent team and I think it will be very challenging game for us," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. "We know they have some wonderfully skilled players and they play an attractive style so we are definitely going to have to be prepared. Hopefully, we'll get our legs back with a couple of days of rest and then we'll be ready to go."

    The United States has won two World Cups, but has lost to Canada two of the three times they faced off in the CONCACAF final.

    The United States doesn't want to appear like it's looking past Costa Rica, realizing that a win Thursday qualifies it for the Under-20 Women's World Cup in Germany in July.

    "We're excited to be in the semifinals," said striker and co-captain Sydney Leroux, who leads all scorers with five goals. "We are definitely going to be ready and bring our 'A' game. That's all I can ask of my teammates."

    With three teams qualifying for the World Cup, a semifinal loss won't preclude a trip to Germany, but will require a victory in Saturday's third-place game.

    The United States has been, so far, the most impressive team, outscoring Jamaica, Trinidad and Mexico 12-1, allowing its only goal in second-half injury time of its finale against its southern neighbor.

    "It's fairly obvious that they are physically stronger than us," Costa Rica coach Randal Chacon said. "They are strong and tall, but we have to take advantage of our strengths. We will work to maintain our shape when we don't have the ball."

    Mexico and Costa Rica have split their two meetings in the third-place game, and Mexico may feel it's time to avoid the uncertainty of World Cup qualification in a consolation match.

    It benched forward Charlyn Corral, instrumental in El Tri's victories over Trinidad and Jamaica, when Mexico played the United States. It apparently was looking to prevent her from picking up a second yellow card and having her miss the semifinals. Accumulated yellow cards are not waived after the first round.

    "This is the most important game…we can't keep anything in," Corral said. "We have to give more than our 100 percent and we have to plat intelligently because we know that in the physical aspect, the height, and in the air battle we may have a disadvantage."

    Canada coach Carolina Morace feels her side has improved each game, but forward Adriana Leon noted she thinks the side needs to improve its finishing.

    While the four semifinalists were not unexpected, the Caribbean's three representatives teams went home disappointed - mostly notably Jamaica.

    The "Reggae Girlz" - which reached the semifinals four years ago, returned to their country without a goal and having been outscored 9-0. Along with Cuba and Trinidad. the three Caribbean sides did not win any of the eight games against non-Caribbean opponents and finished with an aggregate goal difference of minus-18.

    Conversely, Guatemala, which was playing in its first Under-20 Women's Championship, managed a victory (over Cuba 2-1) and was the only team to score a goal against the defending and two-time champion Canadians.

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