Friday, February 25, 2011

Canada advances to CONCACAF U-17 Final

Canada earned a place in the final of the CONCACAF Men’s U-17 Championship with a hard fought 1:0 victory over Panama on Friday. The young Canucks got off to a quick start through Luca Gasparotto’s eighth minute header and held off a strong Panama squad to win its semi-final match in extremely hot conditions at Catherine Hall Park in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Canada will now face the winner of the second semi-final, which features the United States facing hosts Jamaica, in Sunday’s championship final (19.00 ET / 16.00 PT –

“We’ll take the result, we’re very happy to have reached the final,” said head coach Sean Fleming. “We have to give them credit, Panama is an excellent team. I am very happy with the way the boys battled through the match. We know we have to be better. We have to have confidence to play on the ball again.”

Having successfully accomplished its goal of qualifying for the FIFA U-17 Men’s World Cup Mexico 2011 via its quarter-final victory over Trinidad and Tobago two days earlier, the Canadian squad turned its focus to winning its first ever CONCACAF Men’s U-17 Championship beginning with Panama in the semi-final stage.

Canada made a bright start to the match as Michael Petrasso picked up right where he had left off against Trinidad and Tobago by making decisive attacking runs down the Canadian left flank. It was a run from Petrasso that led to the corner kick which resulted in the opening goal for Canada.

The eighth minute corner kick by Samuel Piette was driven hard across the face of goal to the back post where Gasparotto climbed well to powerfully head home from inside the six yard box. The goal was the first of the competition for the Canadian centre back.

Despite showing flashes of individual brilliance, Canada struggled to re-create the team passing and movement that it displayed in an impressive performance in the quarter-final win over Trinidad and Tobago. For its part, Panama worked hard all over the pitch to close down the Canadian attack.

Canada had two excellent chances to extend its lead before the half time break. Following some excellent build-up play in the 37th minute, Captain Bryce Alderson chipped a deft lob over the Panama defence into the path of Keven Aleman, but the ball skipped on Aleman at the last moment and the chance was gone.

Two minutes later a low drive fell kindly to Sali Jalali 10 yards out from the Panama goal, but his quick shot was well blocked away by the defence.

Panama was the clear aggressor for much of the second half as the tiring Canadian legs and minds invited the Panama attackers to attack in numbers.

The skilled Panama attack came close to scoring the equalizer, hitting the post twice with long range efforts but the well organized Canadian defence, expertly marshalled by Maxime Crépeau in goal, held firm throughout the second half to preserve the victory.

For the quarter-final match, Canada's starting XI featured Maxime Crépeau in goal, Marco Lapenna at left back, Daniel Stanese and Luca Gasparotto at centre back, Parker Seymour at right back, and Bryce Alderson, Samuel Piette, Michael Petrasso, Chris Nanco, Keven Aleman and Sali Jalali from midfield up through to the attack.

Canada made three substitutions in the second half, replacing Jalali, Nanco, and Aleman for Jordan Hamilton (56th minute), Wesley Cain (66th minute), and Shadrack Mmunga (90th minute).

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