Experienced Canada looks forward to CU17W
Anyssa Ibrahim (pictured) is expected to play a key role for Canada at the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship in Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)
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ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – Canada is the only CONCACAF-affiliated nation to qualify for the each of the four-contested editions of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

That level of success did not come by accident. In fact, a well-conceived and executed plan has yielded enviable results.

And, according to under-17 head coach Bev Priestman, there is no reason to change now.

“In Canada, we work through a system, a long-term plan towards developing the next Christine Sinclair,” said Priestman, after Thursday’s draw for the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship (CU17W) at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort Hotel. “With that, we’ve had girls who were here last time in 2013 in Jamaica and then a group of girls who recently went with the under-20s to Honduras.

“Six of the girls will be in that (under-17) squad, so a tournament-experienced team.”

That contingent – led by 16-year-old midfielder Sarah Stratigakis -- helped Canada to a runner-up finish in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Championship and a berth in the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The others are forward Shana Flynn; midfielders Anyssa Ibrahim and Vital Kats; defender Emma Regan and goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx.

“Really, for us, it’s about that long term of giving them that experience to help them when they hopefully join the women’s national team,” Priestman added.

First things first, though. The next order of business is obtaining a place in the CU17W semifinals by finishing either first or second in Group A. Opposition in the form of host Grenada, Guatemala and Haiti awaits.

“I think it’s a really exciting group,” expressed Priestman. “You’ve got a home nation with a fan base and there will be a lot of excitement for our girls to experience playing a home country like we did when we were in Jamaica. So from that sense, it’s exciting.

“The other part of that is we had Haiti in the final of the (2014) Under-15 CONCACAF (Championship), so I think that’s a challenging game and brings a different style of opponent. Then, you’ve got, again, Guatemala, who we played last time as our first game and with that, they bring more of an individual flair.”

Canada finished as runner-up to Mexico in the 2013 CU17W, but with equal parts talent and strategy, its first title since 2010 is within reach.