Canada women lose extra-time heartbreaker to Mexico, miss out on FIFA U-17 World Cup

TOLUCA, Mexico — Canada will miss out on the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup for the first time ever after losing a heartbreaker 2-1 to Mexico following extra time Friday in semifinal play at the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship.

The game went to extra time after Canada captain Annabelle Chukwu tied it up at 1-1 in the 75th minute.

Mexico pressed in the first half of extra time and substitute Vanessa Aguilar broke the deadlock in the 101st minute. A sliding Canadian goalkeeper Noelle Henning got her body in the way of an Aguilar shot but the ball went back to the Mexican who knocked it in from a tight angle.

Carla Montes scored in the 25th minute for Mexico, which relied on a physical, stifling defence to close Canada down.

Chukwu eventually pulled Canada even with a low shot to the corner that beat goalkeeper Camila Vazquez. It was the first goal the Mexican ‘keeper had conceded at the tournament.

Vazquez made several big stops in the game, including one just minutes before the Chukwu equalizer.

Mexico, headed to its seventh straight FIFA U-17 World Cup, will play the defending CONCACAF champion U.S. in Sunday’s final. The Americans thumped Haiti 7-1 in the earlier semifinal at the Mexico Football Federation headquarters.

Canada will meet Haiti in a third-place game with little more than bragging rights at stake.

The CONCACAF U-17 championship usually sends three teams to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. But only two qualify from this year’s event because the Dominican Republic, a CONCACAF member, is hosting the soccer showcase in October-November.

The U.S. has won five of the seven CONCACAF U-17 championships held to date, including the last three. Canada won the title in 2010 and Mexico in 2013.

Canada had appeared in all seven previous editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, with a fourth-place finish in 2018 being its best showing. The Canadian women finished 12th last time out in India in 2022 when they failed to advance out of the group stage with an 0-1-2 record.

CONCACAF covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Mexico went unbeaten in winning Group A. Canada went 2-1-0 in finishing runner-up in Group B.

Both teams had their chances in the early going but Montes opened the scoring for Mexico. A Mexican shot hit a defender and bounced back to Montes whose high shot from outside the box went through traffic and beat a diving Henning.

Canada coach Emma Humphries had dug into her roster for the final Group B game against the U.S. on Tuesday, knowing a place in the semifinals was already secure. Anabelle Chukwu was back as captain Friday as Humphries made seven changes from the starting 11 that lost 5-0 to the Americans on Tuesday

Chukwu was joined in the starting lineup by twin sister Isabel. Both turned 17 on Thursday.

Vazquez was called on early Friday, making several saves including stopping Chukwu on a breakaway in the second minute.

Henning, who came into Friday play leading the tournament in saves with 16, added to that total in the 22nd minute by acrobatically tipping a looping Alexa Soto header over the crossbar.

Canada held a 4-2-1 edge over Mexico at the CONCACAF U-17 tournament prior to Friday. Mexico won 2-1 when they met in the 2018 semifinal and lifted the trophy in 2013 with a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over the Canadians.

Chukwu led the Canadian attack in the group stage with four goals while Kaylee Hunter had three assists.

Mexico and the U.S. join New Zealand and the host Dominican at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, with most teams still to qualify.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024

The Canadian Press