A large “Welcome to Canada” sign was unfurled over the east stand at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto on the opening night of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Unfortunately, the visitors from Ghana felt right at home, pressing the Canadian squad for much of the first half, resulting in the lone goal that ultimately led to a 1-0 victory for the African nation over its welcoming host.
The announced crowd numbered over 14,000 and on television the stadium sound was a cacophony of Ghanaian fans singing, chanting, having a great time – as one does when watching live football – occasionally interrupted by reserved Canadian applause each time the home nation ventured up the pitch.
(Note: our country needs to learn some chants and songs. The standard “Go <insert team name> Go” doesn’t cut it away from NHL arenas where scoreboard animations absurdly instruct fans when to make noise)
Canada definitely gets points for hospitality, but those don’t show up in the World Cup group standings. On Friday night, Canada gets a second chance to win its first points of the World Cup against Finland in Toronto (on CBC, broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. ET).
There were positives for the home nation, such as wonderful individual efforts by Emma Fletcher and Nichelle Prince denied by the woodwork and the opposition keeper respectively. The team can pass the ball well and identify runners in open channels that resulted in solid scoring opportunities in the second half.
Finishing was another matter. They’ll have to get that right on Friday night.
Canada previously played Finland in the U-20 Women’s World Cup back in 2006 and won 2-0. Finland has never won a match in this tournament. After losing to North Korea 2-1 in the opener in Toronto, they’ll be out to make history at Canada’s expense.
On Friday the host nation needs to be less welcoming from the outset for a full 90 minutes.