Canada Soccer’s Men’s U-23 National Team will not advance to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games despite a strong tournament performance of one win, two draws and only one loss at the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying. Canada were defeated by Concacaf stalwarts Mexico 0:2 in their Semifinal with Mexico scoring both goals in the second half after a defensively solid performance in the first half by Canada that held Mexico scoreless.
“The guys gave everything to try to take Mexico down, but we had to be perfect and we made a mistake and they made us pay for it,” said Mauro Biello, Canada Soccer’s Men’s Olympic National Team Head Coach. “We are very proud because it is a credit to this group that was put together and I think we saw some players have some good performances, especially defensively. At the end, it’s disappointing, but we laid a foundation for some of these players moving forward to the Men’s National Team.”
This was the first Concacaf competition for National Teams since the global pandemic postponed most sporting events and leagues at both the club and international levels. At the rescheduled Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying, Canada played four international matches in just 10 days, posting a record of one win, two draws and just the one loss against Mexico. In the Concacaf Final scheduled for Tuesday 30 March, Mexico will face Honduras, who on Sunday beat USA to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying campaign has provided Canada Soccer’s young players with the opportunity to face four tough Concacaf opponents who they may also face in the coming year in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and the Concacaf Gold Cup at the international “A” level. Through an aligned Men’s National Team Program, this international tournament experience against El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Mexico is an important next step for Canada’s young players on their journey to the Men’s National Team.
The competition also provided depth to the Men’s National Team Program as several young professional players were unavailable for Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying, whether they were called into the Men’s National Team for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers or unavailable for the whole tournament because the pre-tournament camp and opening match fell outside the FIFA International Calendar. In all, there were nine age-eligible players born 1997 or later who took part in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers this month, which for the first time ever coincided with Canada’s Olympic Qualifying campaign.
Since 2011, Mexico have a combined 57W-8D-4L record in Concacaf youth competitions from the U-15 to U-23 levels, with their most recent loss to Canada at the 2019 Concacaf Boys’ Under-15 Championship in the Quarterfinal stage. This year marked the third cycle in a row in which Canada lost to Mexico in the Concacaf Semifinals, with Mexico perfect at 14-0-0 in those three tournaments (along with a gold medal at London 2012).
Both sides failed to score in the first half, with notably James Pantemis making a couple of important saves in goal for Canada. Tajon Buchanan and Lucas Dias both had a couple of good runs on the attack the other way for Canada.
Mexico capitalized on two quick opportunities in the second half, with Uriel Antuna the first goalscorer in the 57th minute after a Canada pass up the middle was intercepted by Carlos Rodríguez. Mexico scored their second goal seven minutes later after a Sebastian Cordova free kick was headed off the post by Johan Vasquez, hit Callum Montgomery and then was knocked in on the second bounce by Vasquez.
In the Concacaf Semifinals, Canada’s starting XI featured James Pantemis in goal, Zachary Brault-Guillard at right back, David Norman, Callum Montgomery and Marcus Godinho at centre back, Zorhan Bassong at left back, and Michael Baldisimo, Patrick Metcalfe, Lucas Dias, Tajon Buchanan and Charles-Andreas Brym from the midfield up through to the attack. In the second half, coach Mauro Biello replaced Dias with Theo Bair (60’), Charles-Andreas Brym with Ballou Tabla (60’), Zachary Brault-Guillard with Aiden Daniels (65’), Callum Montgomery with Diyaeddine Abzi (82’), and Michael Baldisimo with Ryan Raposo (82’).
Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team face Cayman Islands in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Monday 29 March, with the match to be broadcast live on OneSoccer (18.00 local / 18.00 ET / 15.00 PT). Canada won their first match in the First Round on 25 March, a 5:1 win over Bermuda.
MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM PROGRAM:
Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program channels our nation’s exceptional players into the best soccer environments. The Canada Soccer Pathway works in collaboration with our provincial and territory partners as well as the professional clubs and academies. For Canada’s elite players, the program emphasizes player development on the pathway to representing Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team in international soccer.
In 2019, Canada reached the Quarter-finals of back-to-back Concacaf Gold Cups for the first time since 2009 and finished second in their group of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League A (tied on points with USA, but second on goals difference). Along with a historic 2:0 victory over USA in Toronto, Canada also qualified for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and the next season of Concacaf Nations League A. At the youth level, Canada had top-four finishes at the Concacaf Men’s Under-17 Championship (after eliminating Costa Rica) and Concacaf Boys’ Under-15 Championship (after eliminating Mexico).
Canada Soccer’s Men’s Youth National Teams have won two Concacaf titles: both the 1986 and 1996 Concacaf Men’s Youth Championships. Canada have qualified for 15 FIFA men’s youth tournaments: eight editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup and seven editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Canada most recently qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019.
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