Liam Millar (red jersey) has appeared in both of Canada's games at the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Mexico hasn’t lost at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship since dropping a 2-0 decision to Canada in 2009.
When they met on Monday at the Estadio Nacional, the Canadians knew that if they wanted to turn that trick again, they would have to play a tactically perfect game.
For the first half hour, the plan looked to be on course. Although Mexico was controlling possession, it didn’t result in many scoring opportunities.
That changed when the three-time defending champion netted twice late in the half and Canada’s odds of pulling off the upset lessened.
“The first goals in these games are critical. I think we had half-chances and you’ve got to take those chances,” said Canada head coach Rob Gale. “We know they’re going to move you side-to-side and it’s going to be a big, physical effort.
“We broke it down into blocks to get through 15 minutes, get through 30 minutes and then we needed to find the ball better, but both goals…we were very disappointed.”
Canada was forced to chase in the second half as Mexico turned on the style to score three more goals, winning 5-0 and eliminating Canada from contention.
Besides qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the goal for teams participating in the CONCACAF event is to see players eventually graduate to the senior level. It’s in losing that lessons are learned and Canada is hoping that the pain the team feels now will lead to better days in the coming years.
“It’s hard not to qualify for a World Cup as I’ve always wanted to my whole life, but there are always ups and downs in football,” said Liam Millar, the midfielder who plays in the Liverpool youth system. “The things that bring you down will also help bring you up, so tough results like this will push your career and make you want to work harder.”
Canada will wrap up play in Group A on Thursday against Antigua and Barbuda, which has been eliminated as well.