Canada (above) poses for a team photo prior to its FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup match against Ghana at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma on March 22, 2014 in Tibas, San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – As it turned out, Canada needed to defeat Ghana on Sunday in order to advance to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.
This type of “win and you’re in” scenario crops up in football regularly. Actual or imagined, fulfilling that simply stated idiom is rarely uncomplicated. Perhaps, it is the reason why success in the sport is so satisfying and anything less is often viewed as disappointment.
Such was the wire on which Canada was carefully balanced.
In the other Group B game played simultaneously that day, Korea DPR and Germany were level at 3-3 heading into the break. A win by either side, combined with a Canadian loss, would see the CONCACAF runner-up be eliminated from contention.
With her team ahead by two goals, Canada defender Bianca St. Georges was shown a red card in the 50th minute for a foul on Princella Abudea.
It was a moment of adversity that distinguishes a champion from all the others.
Despite the fact that Korea DPR eventually scored again to overcome Germany, the Canadians held on heroically to top Ghana, 2-1, and -- as group runner-up -- clinch a place in the tournament’s knockout rounds for the third time in four attempts.
Of course, it was not easy, but Canada head coach Beverly Priestman was delighted with the attitude, effort and final result.
“To play 40, and it was probably 45 with extra time, with 10 players, I mean you got to be proud of those girls,” said a beaming Priestman on the Canadian Soccer Association’s website. “To be fair to them, they want to play a certain way. And, you know, our fullbacks are trying to push on and midfielders, you know, we’re saying let’s defend, defend the lead.
“But, you know, these girls never give up and just really proud of them.”
The Canadian players will give Priestman, as well as an entire nation, additional opportunities for pride on Thursday against Group A winner Venezuela.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a different game again on Thursday,” said forward Emily Borgmann, who scored five goals at the 2013 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship. “I think just taking all the drama that has been in each game, just taking it and calming it down in the next game.
Prior to the triumph over Ghana, Canada played Germany (2-2) and Korea DPR (1-1) to tightly contested draws. In Venezuela, it will take on an opponent that raced through Group A play with a perfect 3-0-0 record, winning by a combined score of 8-0.
Borgmann acknowledged that Canada will have to confront this latest test in the same way it did group stage play.
“I definitely think we can’t take them too lightly,” she noted. “We’ve watched the games and reviewed the footage, but we just need to get together a good game plan and take it to them.”
Those who know the Canadian team best would not expect anything less.