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Canada downs Puerto Rico to secure qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup


GUATEMALA CITY — Canada booked its ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a 3-0 win Wednesday over Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Men's Under-17 Championship.

Kyler Vojvodic, Antoine N'Diaye and Lazar Stefanovic scored at Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores.

The goal-scorers represented the academies of all three Canadian MLS teams with Vojvodic from the Vancouver Whitecaps, N'Diaye from CF Montreal and Stefanovic from Toronto FC.

"I'm proud of the boys. They did everything we asked," said Canada coach Andrew Olivieri. "They managed the game well today but they managed their emotions even better."

The four semifinalists at the 20-team CONCACAF tournament, which runs through Sunday, advance to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru in November. The world championship was originally slated for 2021 but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Mexico and the U.S. qualified with quarterfinal wins Tuesday. Defending CONCACAF champion Mexico blanked El Salvador 2-0 while the U.S., runner-up in 2019, beat host Guatemala 5-3.

Panama met Honduras in the late quarterfinal Wednesday.

Canada will face the U.S. Friday in a rematch of the 2019 semifinal won 4-0 by the Americans.

Vojvodic opened the scoring in the eighth minute, heading home a perfect cross from Jeevan Badwal. N'Diaye added to the lead in the 36th from the penalty spot after Lucas Ozimec was scythed down in the box by Puerto Rico captain Eitan Solomiany.

Stefanovic made it 3-0 in the 55th from just outside the penalty box with a low free kick that went past the Puerto Rican defensive wall into the corner of the goal.

Canada moved into the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Haiti on Saturday. Puerto Rico, which advanced directly to the knockout round via last fall’s CONCACAF U-17 qualifying event, dispatched Costa Rica in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 tie in round-of-16 play.

Canada finished second in Group F with a 2-1-0 record, beating Trinidad and Tobago 3-2 and Barbados 2-0 before falling 1-0 to the Americans. 

The three top teams in each of the four opening-round groups advanced to the knockout phase, joining Puerto Rico and fellow qualifiers Bermuda, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in the round of 16.

Canada has been to seven of the past 18 men's U-17 World Cups, hosting the event in 1987. It has never advanced past the group stage and went 0-3-0 last time out in Brazil in 2019.

Mexico won the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in 2019, defeating the U.S. 2-1 after extra time in the final at Bradenton, Fla. It was the Mexicans' eighth title at this age level.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023

The Canadian Press

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