Canadian women down Panama to reach semifinals of CONCACAF U-20 Championship

Canada survived dreadful conditions Tuesday to defeat nine-woman Panama 1-0 in quarter-final play at the CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship and move within one win of qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.

Canada battles through downpour to set up match with undefeated Mexico

Canada, seen here earlier in the CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship, defeated Panama 1-0 in quarter-final play on Tuesday to reach the semifinals against Mexico. (@CanadaSoccerEN/Twitter)

Canada survived dreadful conditions Tuesday to defeat nine-woman Panama 1-0 in quarter-final play at the CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship and move within one win of qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.

Holly Ward, a freshman forward at the University of Texas, scored for Canada from the penalty spot in the 30th minute as Panama proved to be tough having two players sent off.

Panama defender Wendy Natis received a straight red card in the 45th minute while captain Deysire Salazar was sent off in the 53rd for a second yellow.

The match started in a downpour at Estadio Panamericano with the rain so heavy that pools of water were visible on the field within the first 10 minutes of play.

In some places, the water stopped the movement of the ball with players slipping and sliding. The rain slowed as the first half ended but pools of water dotted the pitch, affecting play.

The rain had stopped by the time the second half had started. And with Panama down in numbers, the Canadians began to press on attack but could not add to the their lead.

Canada outshot Panama 8-1.

Canada will face Mexico in Thursday's semifinals in a battle of 5-0-0 teams. The Mexicans downed El Salvador 5-1 on Tuesday in Santo Domingo.

The U.S. (5-0-0) will meet Puerto Rico (4-1-0) in the other semifinal. The Americans won 7-0 when they met in group play.

Canada has yet to be scored on at the tournament, holding an 30-0 edge in goals, while Mexico has outscored its opposition 27-1.

3 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup spots on the line

The tournament, which runs through Saturday, will send three teams to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in August. The CONCACAF champion, runner-up and third-place finisher will join host Costa Rica as representatives of North and Central America and the Caribbean at the U-20 World Cup.

Canada coach Cindy Tye made six changes to the team that blanked the Cayman Islands 13-0 in the round of 16 with Jade Rose returning as captain and Anna Karpenko back in goal.

After an even opening, a Canadian free kick skidded through the Panama box and hit defender Ana Rodriguez on the arm. Ward slotted home the ensuing penalty kick for her fourth goal of the tournament.

Natis was shown a straight red in the dying seconds of the first half for using her arm to block a Canadian header off a corner that was headed into the goal. Simi Awujo missed the resulting penalty, hammering the ball off the crossbar with Panama defender Hilary Jaen quick to clear the ball.

Salazar got her second caution in the 53rd minute for a hard tackle on Olivia Smith.

Smith had a chance in the 60th minute when a cross found her at the back post but a Panama defender did enough to interfere with the close-range shot and goalkeeper Alejandra Garay pounced on the ball.

Panama substitute Elka Mojica gave Canada a scare in the 76th minute when her long-range free kick went just wide.

Canada remains perfect at tournament

Canada won all three group-stage matches, dispatching St. Kitts and Nevis 7-0, El Salvador 4-0 and Trinidad and Tobago 5-0 before dismantling the Cayman Islands. The 13 goals against the Cayman Islands set a scoring record for a Canadian women's national youth team.

Panama (2-2-1) had downed Jamaica 3-0 in its round-of-16 match.

The tournament started with a 16-team group stage split into four groups of four, with the top three teams in each pool advancing to the knockout stage.

The 12 teams moving on joined Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Curacao and Suriname, which advanced directly to the knockout round from a qualifying event that took place in September.

It marks the first CONCACAF youth tournament since the global pandemic began in March 2020.

Canada will also compete in the CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship from April 23 to May 8 as well as the CONCACAF Men's Under-20 Championship this summer.

Canada has qualified for seven editions of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, finishing runner-up in 2002 when a Canadian team featuring a young Christine Sinclair lost to the U.S. in sudden-death extra time before 47,784 at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.

That inaugural event was competed at the U-19 level with the event since switching to U-20. The Canadian women failed to qualify for the 2018 U-20 World Cup in France and did not get out of the group stage in 2016 in Papua New Guinea.

Canada hosted the event in 2014, losing to Germany in the quarter-finals.

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