Canada’s streak of four straight draws at the FIFA U-17 World Cup came to an end on Friday.
And so did their presence in the tournament.
A 3-0 loss to Argentina left the Canadian Under-17 national team with two points from three games, and a ticket home from the United Arab Emirates as the knockout stages of the tournament get underway. Despite posting Canada’s best-ever performance at the U-17 World Cup, head coach Sean Fleming’s team couldn’t make the historic breakthrough that fans had hoped for: a first-ever win in the competition.
The match almost started catastrophically for Canada, as Argentina took advantage of a scuffed kickoff and nearly opened the scoring after just six seconds. Minutes later, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency goalkeeper Marco Carducci was called into action as striker Sebastian Driussi knocked a scissor kick from close range – but Carducci was up to the task.
Canada had several chances on the counterattack – with FC Edmonton midfielder Hanson Boakai’s tight-angle shot in the 20th minute likely being their best – but couldn’t find the final ball to seriously test the Argentinian goal in the first half.
As the first half came to a close, catastrophe finally did strike for the Canadians, as Luis Leszczuk found Joaquín Ibañez with a through-ball into the area in stoppage time, and Ibañez rifled a shot past Carducci to give his side the one-goal advantage heading into halftime.
Fleming hoped to spark his team offensively at halftime, substituting Ali Musse in for Whitecaps FC Residency midfielder Marco Bustos. But before the change could even be announced at the stadium in Dubai, Argentina had plunged a dagger into Canadian hearts.
A cross from the right wing by Nicolas Tripichio found the head of Matías Sánchez just a minute after the break, providing the South Americans with an insurmountable 2-0 advantage.
Predictably, the Canadians began pressing in the attack, and nearly notched one back in the 61st minute, but a flick from Toronto FC Academy defender Elias Roubos went just over the bar. TFC Academy striker Jordan Hamilton then found himself alone in on goal in the 70th minute, but his effort was easily handled by the Argentinian ’keeper.
A few minutes later, Sánchez put an exclamation mark on the difference between the two teams, with a highlight-reel right-footed curler from 25 yards leaving Carducci helpless in the Canadian goal.
The win clinched first place in Group E for Argentina, who will face Tunisia in the Round of 16, while Iran’s 1-0 win over Austria on Friday gave them second place and an upcoming date with Nigeria.
Canada, despite finishing ahead of Austria in Group E, were not one of the four best third-place teams in the 24-team tournament, and were eliminated with the loss.