Ashley Soto (pictured) is a key member of Mexico's outstanding defense at the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship in St. George's, Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)
St. GEORGE’S, Grenada – On Friday, Mexico topped Haiti 3-0 in the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship semifinals to earn a place in the next FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Now, Mexico head coach Christopher Cuellar wants to make a piece of CONCACAF history.
“It’s a monumental victory to once again qualify for the World Cup. We’re very happy with the significance of this,” said Cuellar. “We would like to be the first (to repeat as CU17W champion). We want to recover as well as possible to give it our best shot in the next match.”
Mexico will get the opportunity to do that in Sunday’s final against the United States, the side it eliminated from 2013 U-17 Women’s World Cup contention, 4-2 on penalty kicks, after a 1-1 draw in the semifinals.
In a group stage meeting between them on March 6, the Americans won 1-0 on a 73rd minute goal by Ashley Sanchez.
Cuellar believes that his squad has grown since that day.
“The team has been training very well,” he commented. “I think the team is gaining confidence as the tournament goes on. The first matches were very nerve wracking for them. It is their first experience in an international tournament for many. The team could be peaking at right point.”
One of the reasons for Mexico’s fine play has been a series of solid defensive performances that have resulted in preventing opponents from scoring in the last 197 minutes. That same defense will need to be at the top of its game to shut down the potent U.S. attack, which struck for five goals in its semifinal win against Canada.
“We work a lot defensively,” Cuellar finished. “We have players that are a good combination of technical ability and also physical ability to be able to handle the match-ups. For example, (Haiti forward Nerilia) Mondesir – very fast player, technical player. We were able to handle her. Very happy with the effort our defense made.
“We train to always try to be as good as the best teams.”