South Korea took advantage of set pieces to hand Canada a 2-0 loss in its opening game Thursday at the FIFA under-20 Women’s World Cup.
The first goal came in the 53rd minute after a string of Korean corners. Goalkeeper Anna Karpenko came out to get the ball but failed to corral it and instead the ball bounced in off unlucky defender Brooklyn Courtnall, the daughter of former NHL forward Russ Courtnall, for an own goal.
“Any time you have set pieces, (there’s) lots of bodies, lots of chaos and it was bouncing around in there,” said Canada coach Cindy Tye. “Unfortunate.”
The Canadians were burned on another corner in the 62nd minute with Mun Hayeon rising high above substitute Holly Ward, possibly with the help of a little shove, to head the ball home at the far post.
“There was some physical play, no question,” said Tye.
Ward grabbed her head in despair at the goal.
The Canadians pressed in the dying minutes but were unable to breach the Korean defence.
In the earlier Group C game at Estadio Nacional, Nigeria edged France 1-0 in the rain on an 85th-minute goal by Flourish Sabastine. The winning goal came five minutes after a French goal from a goalmouth scramble was waved off for a foul on the goalkeeper after video review.
Korea moves into first place in Group C on goal difference over Nigeria. Canada is fourth, below France on goal difference.
Torrential rain forced a one-hour pause during the first half of the Nigeria-France game, resulting in the Canada start being pushed back 30 minutes to 8:30 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. ET). It was 20 degrees Celsius and wet at kickoff.
In Group D play Thursday, the three-time champion U.S. blanked Ghana 3-0 and defending champion Japan edged the Netherlands 1-0.
The Canadians face France on Sunday at the same venue before wrapping up round-robin play next Wednesday against Nigeria some 18 kilometres away at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela.
“We spoke to them at centre field (after the game). Naturally they’re disappointed,” said Tye. “That’s fine. But we have two games left so I just told them (to) keep their heads up. We had some really good moments today and some things we have to work on. That’s part of the process of moving through tournament play.”
“This is a great learning opportunity for these kids,” she added. “They’re going to go through the bumps of it.”
The winner of Canada’s group takes on the runner-up in Group D while the Group C runner-up will face the Group D winner.
The Canadian women qualified in March by beating Puerto Rico 2-0 in the third-place game at the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic.
Canada captain Jade Rose, Olivia Smith and Zoe Burns, who have seven senior caps between them, all started. Karpenko has been called up by the senior squad but has yet to make an appearance.
Scoring chances were hard to come by in the early going with both ‘keepers making routine saves when called into action. Most attempts were off-target if the attacks got that far.
“It took us a little while to grow into the game, no question,” said Tye.
Burns, who attends USC, showed some flair in the 33rd minute, backheeling a ball to herself on the edge of the Korean penalty box before sending a cross too far.
Canada had the best scoring chance of the half in the 40th minute when Burns’ cross found Simi Awujo whose header was acrobatically parried away in a one-handed save by Korean ‘keeper Kim Kyeonghee.
Awujo and Burns were the most dynamic of the Canadians in moving the ball.
The Koreans had a half-chance off a corner in the 47th minute, but Lee Seran could not get a boot to a teammate’s downward header and Karpenko cleaned up.
Minutes later, Chun Garam got behind the defence but was bodied off the ball by defender Mia Pante. Ward then shot high after a rampaging run down the centre by Rose.
An Awujo header off a free kick went wide in the 79th minute.
Costa Rica was originally slated to co-host the U-20 event in 2020 with Panama. The tournament was postponed due to the pandemic with Costa Rica eventually taking over as sole host two years later.
Canada failed to qualify for the 2018 U-20 World Cup in France. And the Canadian women did not get out of the group stage in 2016 in Papua New Guinea.
Canada has qualified for eight of the 10 editions of the U-20 World Cup, finishing runner-up in 2002 when a Canadian team featuring a young Christine Sinclair lost to the U.S. in extra time before 47,784 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
That inaugural event was competed at the U-19 level before the tournament switched to U-20 in 2006.
Canada hosted the event in 2014, losing to Germany in the quarterfinals.
South Korea was third in 2010 and has made the quarterfinals in two of its four other visits to the championship.
The Canadians, who first got together in January, held a camp in Toronto in July and have been in Costa Rica since Aug. 2. They played a pre-tournament friendly against Japan, losing 2-1.
The U.S. (2002, ’08 and ’12), Germany (2004, ’10 and ’14) and North Korea (2006 and ’16) are the only other countries apart from Japan (2018) to have won the U-20 women’s title.
Tye, who doubles as coach of the Dalhousie University women’s team, is one of nine female coaches at the 16-country FIFA tournament.