Canada Soccer’s Women’s U-17 Team leaves Weifang, China after gaining invaluable experience at the Four Nations Tournament with a 3-1 loss to China, a 1-1 draw with the USA and a 3-1 loss to Japan. Jordyn Huitema will return to Canada as a new record holder as the first Canadian to score for all three levels of Canada Soccer’s National Teams in one year.
Canada 1:3 China
The match against China was one of two halves, with evident nerves contributing to a slow start for the Reds, but the second half had China on their heels and showed Canada’s attacking strength.
“We are really proud of how the team played, especially in the second half,” said Bev Priestman, Canada Soccer National EXCEL Director 14-20, after the first match. “In the first half, the nerves were evident, especially for the players putting the Canada shirt on for the first time, so we challenged them at halftime to be brave and really get on ball a little bit more. We had lots of chances in the second half, Jordyn Huitema and Jayde Riviere, who both also featured in the U-20 tournament, came on and really changed the game with their experience and quality on the ball. Huitema scored an excellent goal, and could have had four or five more, having come inches of the post a few times.”
Huitema’s 83rd minute goal was her fourth of the year, following one against the USA for the U-20 team in Australia earlier in July, and two for the Women’s National Team against Costa Rica in June.
Canada 1:1 USA
Canada came out strong against its regional foes but went into halftime down a goal after the US converted a corner in the 21st minute. Coming out of halftime with renewed determination, Canada drew even with the US in the 51st minute when Ariel Young converted a Canadian corner.
“I thought the girls vastly improved from our first game here, having got the nerves out of the way,” said Priestman after the draw. “We defended very well, but we also had some very good chances, particularly in the first half. It was a gritty performance and the team will gain confidence from this match, having really found belief in themselves and brought alive what we’ve been asking of them.”
Canada 1:3 Japan
Canada’s final match against former youth champions Japan, showed continued determination and further prepared the team for the upcoming CONCACAF qualification campaign. Canada’s goal came on a cross into the middle of the box, when Teni Akindoju picked up the ball off a teammate’s deflection, slipped past a sprawling defender and put it hard and high over the keeper.
“I saw some of our best possession and bravery on the ball this tournament against Japan,” said Priestman. “With in-game injuries to key players, there were some really tired legs in the second half due to the use of unplanned subs and the girls put it all out there for their country. I was particularly pleased with the first half, I felt we were dangerous while disciplined and able to deal with the problems Japan threw at us, but later in the second half the accumulated fatigue against a good Japanese team was evident.”
Summing up the experience, Priestman expressed continued appreciation for the efforts of the EXCEL group and hope for the future of this squad as they head towards the next qualification tournament.
“This is really just the start for the group, and they showed huge growth over a short period,” she said. “The important thing from here is that the learnings are used to keep pushing both individuals and the group forward in their daily Regional EXCEL Centres and future National EXCEL camps. The experience of playing two top Asian teams preparing for qualifiers and the US so early in a cycle can’t be underestimated as it really allowed us to take a snapshot of where we are currently and provided us with a great starting point to build upon. The tournament also provided us with an excellent practice run for future tournaments coping with travel, the heat, tight turnarounds and related pressures, all of which these players will be exposed to in the future, so it was an excellent development experience overall.”
The Four Nations Tournament in Weifang, China was a key touchpoint prior to CONCACAF qualification for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018, and provided Canada Soccer’s technical staff with an opportunity to assess the group and better understand the curriculum needs going in to 2018’s major events, as well as the development needs of individuals in their journey towards the Women’s National Team.
Canada Soccer Women’s National EXCEL Program brings together the best with the best at the national youth level. Operating across the U-14 to U-20 age groups, the program is designed to deliver an aligned talent structure and system that progresses more top players to Canada’s Women’s National Team.
The Canada Soccer EXCEL program featured 39 young Canadians born between 1998 and 2003 in the two friendly tournaments in Australia and China in July, providing crucial international experience to Canada’s youth squads.
Jordyn Huitema, Jayde Riviere and Maya Antoine represented Canada in both the U-20 and U-17 competitions. Canada Soccer’s EXCEL System has already produced eight Women’s National Team players and Olympic bronze medalists, and the development is continuing in full stride as EXCEL players who have already played with the Women’s National Team, including Sarah Stratigakis, Gabrielle Carle, and Jordyn Huitema competed for Canada in Australia.