For soccer players, there’s nothing that quite matches the pressure of a decisive game at a FIFA World Cup and Canada’s Women’s U-17 Team will be getting their first experience in such an environment on Saturday.
Canada will be taking on Ghana, the team that’s already won Group B at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, in a game where a win is the only sure way to guarantee passage to the quarterfinals.
They could conceivably get through with a tie or even a loss but they would then require a favourable result from the group's other game between Germany and Korea DPR.
“Playing Ghana, they’re a very different team than these girls wouldn’t have really experienced before,” said Head Coach Bev Priestman after the team’s final training session on Friday afternoon.
“In that sense, it’s a massive opportunity for them to grow and move on and add it to themselves as they move up the system.”
Advancing wouldn’t only be a moment to celebrate in the short-term, it’s also another opportunity for the team to gain international experience.
The goal for these players is for them to become tournament experts so that these experiences and successes can translate up the ladder and ultimately into the senior level, each step they move forward can work wonders.
“We want them to use the tools they have available to individually grow and know all the things that we’re trying to breed in terms of our DNA and the way we can to see Canadians play in the future,” said Priestman. “For me it’s (for them to) grow from playing Tier One opposition on the world stage and all the pressures that go with it.”
Canada has only qualified once previously for the knockout rounds of a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. That came in the inaugural tournament in 2008 in New Zealand when Canada was knocked out in the quarterfinal by Germany.