Canada’s U-17 World Cup dream is over.
Despite a frantic second half, in which they poured on the pressure, Canada could not solve a stingy Rwandan defence and had to settle for a 0-0 draw with the African side. The result left the Canadians - who needed to win outright - with only two points from three matches, not enough to advance to the Round of 16 at Mexico 2011.
Canadian head coach Sean Fleming played three members of Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency in this final Group C match at the Estadio Hidalgo in Pachuca, Mexico. Defender Adam Polakiewicz was joined by captain Bryce Alderson and winger Yassin Essa in making the start against the Africans on Saturday.
A tentative first half saw neither side really threaten, with the best chance in the opening 45 minutes being a Rwandan shot from well outside Canada’s penalty area that was easily handled by goalkeeper Quillan Roberts.
Canada came out of the halftime break like a team possessed, and within two minutes, they tested Rwandan goalkeeper Marcel Nzarora. Sadi Jalali, who scored his team’s first goal of the tournament in a 2-2 draw with England, took on two defenders and smashed a shot at goal from 10 yards out, but Nzarora had the angle covered.
Ten minutes later, Canadian attacker Keven Aleman would be the next to test Nzarora, forcing a good save from the Rwandan shot-stopper after getting free of his defender and running in on goal.
At the hour mark, Jalali was again threatening in the Rwandan area, this time on a breakaway after receiving a nicely-threaded through ball from Aleman. With just the onrushing ‘keeper to beat, Jalali pushed the ball wide, wasting perhaps the best chance of the match for either side.
The wide open play from Canada benefitted their opponents as well, as the African side took the extra space and created some chances of their own. Much of the final 15 minutes was played at a breakneck pace, with the Canadians pressing and Rwanda counter-attacking.
The end-to-end action required a couple of key saves from Roberts, including a full-stretch stop on a 35-yard volley. The Rwandans found themselves on the wrong end of the more dangerous opportunities, however, although it didn’t matter much, as the Canadians’ lack of finishing was ultimately their own undoing.
Having earned two points, Canada finishes the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup as the most successful Canadian side at the U-17 age group, with four previous teams having never earned a single point in 12 matches.