Haiti's Saraphina Joseph (pictured) in action against Canada during a CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship match on March 7, 2016, in St. George's, Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – Haiti is 90 minutes away from securing a place in the next FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
That’s right, a team that entered the CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship without ever winning in six previous all-time games in the competition is on the verge of an all-time accomplishment.
In order to book a ticket to Jordan 2016, however, the Haitians – who went a perfect 3-0-0 in Group B play -- must overcome defending champion Mexico in the semifinals on Friday at the Grenada Athletics Stadium.
A come-from-behind 2-1 win over Canada on Monday set-up the pairing.
“Without a question, it feels good,” said Haiti head coach Shek Borkowski, when asked about his team’s success in Grenada. “For us, any achievement, any sign of progress can only help us grow in the future. I understand that this is just the group stage and the games will get tougher. We’ll enjoy it while we can and see what happens next.”
Mexico certainly poses a stiff challenge, but taking three points against Canada – the only team from CONCACAF to qualify for each of the four previous FIFA U-17 events – was a defining result and a confidence enhancer.
“We played very well (against Canada),” Borkowski remarked. “We knew coming into the game that [Canada] is a very strong opponent, a lot of experience, good players, well coached, very well organized. Our biggest objective in the game was not to concede position on the field and not necessarily worry about possession.”
The North Americans needed to defeat Haiti in order to finish first in the group. They looked to be on their way when Sarah Stratigakis put them ahead in 77th minute.
This Haiti team is different, more refined and resolute. Rather than be dejected, it became energized and focused.
Four minutes later, Mikerline Saint Felix leveled with her fifth goal of the tournament and then Shelsie Melissa Dacius completed the historic win by converting an 84th minute penalty kick.
“It just shows that we are on the right track,” commented Borkowski about the significance of beating Canada. “We are making small gradual steps, but it takes time. You can’t go from being an average team to and then compete with the big girls.”
With two games remaining, Haiti will meet either the United States or Canada on Sunday in the final or the match for third place. It now has a well-earned seat at the main CONCACAF table.
“We told the girls (before Monday) that the next three games will be against Canada, USA, Mexico, and that’s who we want to play against,” Borkowski finished. “Those are the top teams in our region. In order for us to get better, we have to play those teams. If it’s not CONCACAF competition, we’re not going to get games against Canada, Mexico and the U.S. We know we have to take advantage of those opportunities, play hard and get better.”