Canada beats Haiti, advances to quarterfinals of CONCACAF Under-17 Men's Championship
GUATEMALA CITY — Canada dispatched Haiti 3-0 Saturday to reach the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Men's Under-17 Championship and move within one win of qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Antoine N’Diaye, Lucas Ozimec and Erik Pop scored for Canada, which needed just 16 minutes to build a 2-0 lead at Estadio Pensativo.
Wednesday's quarterfinal in Guatemala City will see Canada face either Costa Rica or Puerto Rico. Costa Rica won Group G with a 2-0-1 record, while Puerto Rico advanced directly to the knockout round via last fall’s CONCACAF U-17 qualifying event.
Earlier Sunday the U.S. blanked the Dominican Republic 7-0 to move into the quarterfinals against the winner of Jamaica-Guatemala.
"The boys can come out of tonight really proud of the way they approached the match and how we were so decisive in the early stages," said Canadian coach Andrew Olivieri.
"We suffered through periods, but we never broke. We know we have to be better in moments but grinding out a tough win in any knockout match for Canada is an important achievement. We move on to get ready and keep getting better for the quarterfinal.”
The 20-team main tournament, which runs through Feb. 26, will send four teams to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru in November. The world championship was originally slated for 2021 but was postponed because of the pandemic.
The Canadians went ahead in the fourth minute when a long ball to Kyler Vojvodic split the defence. Vojvodic passed to N'Diaye who beat Haiti 'keeper Tony Algarin with a low shot.
Ozimec made it 2-0 in the 16th minute, left unmarked at the far post to head home a cross from fellow Toronto FC academy member Theo Rigopoulos after a well-worked Canadian buildup.
Haiti had its chances in the first half, forcing two good saves from Canadian goalkeeper Nathaniel Abraham but misfiring on a couple of other occasions. Schneilorens Lebrun hammered a shot off the outside of the Canadian goalpost in first-half stoppage time.
It was more of the same in the second half with the Haitians challenging but failing to put shots on target. Holding a two-goal lead, Canada was less adventurous on attack after the break.
With Haiti throwing men forward in an attempt to claw a goal back, Pop added an insurance goal in the 88th minute when he was sent in alone.
Canada is captained by Alessandro Biello, a midfielder who is part of the CF Montreal academy.
Biello’s father is Mauro Biello who doubles as an assistant coach with the Canadian senior men’s team and director of Canada Soccer’s under-18 to under-23 program. Mauro Biello won four caps for Canada as a player.
Alessandro is also the nephew of former Canadian international Nick De Santis.
The game features teammates on different sides.
Canada's tournament roster features four players from the CF Montreal academy while Haiti has three. The Haitian squad also includes a player from Quebec's CS Saint-Laurent.
Canada finished second in Group F with a 2-1-0 record, beating Trinidad and Tobago 3-2 and Barbados 2-0 before falling 1-0 to the Americans. Haiti was third in Group H after losses to El Salvador (3-1) and Honduras (1-0) and a victory over Suriname (3-0).
The three top teams in each of the four opening-round groups advanced to the knockout phase, joining Puerto Rico, and fellow qualifiers Bermuda, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in the round of 16.
Canada has been to seven of the past 18 men's U-17 World Cups, hosting the event in 1987. It has never advanced past the group stage and went 0-3-0 last time out in Brazil in 2019.
Mexico won the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in 2019, defeating the U.S. 2-1 after extra time in the final at Bradenton, Fla. It was the Mexicans' eighth title at this age level.
Canada lost 4-0 to the U.S. in the 2019 semifinal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.
The Canadian Press