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Ghana upsets Canada in U-20 World Cup opener

Canada's one-year countdown to the World Cup began Friday. (Photo Copyright Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

(Photo Copyright Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

TORONTO — Ghana spoiled Canada’s FIFA 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup opener on Tuesday at the National Soccer Stadium, beating the hosts 1-0.

Sherifatu Sumaila scored the game’s only goal in the 22nd minute, tapping in a rebound after Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan spilled Edem Atovor’s initial shot from the left side.

Atovor gave Canada fits down that flank all night. Her first chance came in the 10th minute, when she got free and in on goal, only to see her left-footed shot blocked by a sliding Kadeisha Buchanan. Atovor created another chance just minutes after Ghana’s goal, whipping in a cross to Wasila Diwura-Soale, who just missed on making clean contact on the ball with her head.

“She is our playmaker now in the middle. Fantastic,” Ghana coach Bashir Hayford said of Atovor.

Canada found it hard to adapt on both sides of the ball in the first half, coach Andrew Olivieri said.

“Ghana playing man-marking on all or most of the pitch is difficult for a lot of players to play against, to adapt to,” he said. “You don’t see that much in the modern game anymore. Everything just happens a little bit quicker, is a little bit tighter and especially the North American players — Canada and the U.S. — will always have more difficulty against that and adjusting to it. And it took us half the game to adjust to it.”

Emma Fletcher had Canada’s best chance of the match and best look at goal of the first half, cutting inside onto her right foot and striking a low, skipping shot off the near post.

Ashley Campbell and Nichelle Prince created second-half chances off the bench for Canada, but it wasn’t enough to keep the hosts from dropping into a hole in Group A. Janine Beckie nearly equalized deep in second half stoppage time after collecting the ball alone at the far post, but she smacked a right-footed shot that hit into Ghana goalkeeper Victoria Agyei’s left knee.

“It’s frustrating,” Prince said. “I think we dominated a lot of the game and we had most of the possession in the second chance. We had a lot of chances, and it didn’t really go our way. They had an early goal, which helped them.”

Korea DPR beat Finland 2-1 earlier in the day, also claiming 3 pts. in Group A.

Ghana’s U-17 team finished third in the 2012 World Cup, and this U-20 team features some players from that squad of two years ago.

Hayford praised his team postgame, and although he said before the tournament that his team is capable of winning the World Cup he said he wouldn’t “stick [his] neck out to double-down on that claim just yet.

“We have learned a lesson,” Hayford said postgame, “that being to the World Cup is not easy.”

And Olivieri knows Canada has backed itself into a corner. “Absolutely, the next two games are must-wins.”

Finland 1, Korea DPR 2

A dipping, knuckling shot by Choe Yun Gyong in the 27th minute lifted Korea DPR past Finland in the first match off the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Choe’s shot from 25 yards dipped over Finland goalkeeper Vera Varis, but the North Koreans could only enjoy their celebrations for less than a minute.

Finland marched down the other way right after the kickoff, and Sini Laaksonen hit an equally impressive shot into the top corner to get one back for Finland.

Nora Heroum nearly found an equalizer in the 75th minute, but she was denied by Korea DPR goalkeeper Kim Choi Ok with a kick-save in a 1-v-1 chance. A stoppage time chance was also for naught for Finland.

Kim So Hyang had opened the scoring for Korea DPR in the 15th minute.


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