CANADA'S under-17 women's soccer team, which includes Winnipegger Alison Clarke, defeated Mexico 1-0 Saturday at the CONCACAF under-17 championship in Alajuela, Costa Rica, notching their second straight qualification to the FIFA under-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago in September.
But it wasn't easy, as Canada was forced to play short-handed for the final 33 minutes after Yazmin Ongtengco was ejected in the 57th minute for a hard, sliding tackle on Mexico's Lucera Lara at midfield. It was Ontengco's second yellow card of the game.
As a result, Kinley McNicoll's lone goal, scored at the eight-minute mark, stood up to give Canada the championship victory. The scoring play resulted when McNicoll ran onto a through ball from Nour Ghoneim and flicked it past Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago, who had raced off her line to the top of the penalty area and watched as the ball bounced off the far post and rolled over the line.
That goal ended Canada's 271-minute goalless streak and gave the country its first CONCACAF title since the 2008 under-20 women's championship. It also avenged Mexico's 1-0 victory over Canada on Monday in the Group A final.
Clarke played a key role Thursday in Canada's advance to the final. With their semifinal against the United States deadlocked at 0-0 in regulation, Clarke scored on the first penalty kick and Canada went on to win 5-3 and advance to the final against Mexico. Joining Canada at the World Cup will be Mexico and the host nation, Trinidad and Tobago. "We're ecstatic, happy and looking forward to the World Cup," Canadian coach Bryan Rosenfeld told the CONCACAF website.
The Canadians caught a couple of breaks late in the game. In the 86th minute, Mexico's Claudio Ibarra ran onto a flicked pass from Christina Murillo, took one touch and closed to 12 metres before shooting just wide of the near post. Then a minute later, Murillo's free kick from near the right touchline 45 metres out bounced off the top of the Canadian crossbar.