Canada duo determined to crush Black Princesses in FIFA U20 Women's World Cup opener
Canada defenders Sura Yekka and Kadeisha are looking to lead their country to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup and are eager to hit the field for their opening game against Ghana at Toronto’s National Soccer Stadium on 5 August.
They were among 21 players selected for the team and introduced this morning during a press conference at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
“I’m counting down the days to that first game. It’s going to be so exciting,” said Yekka, one of four players on the team who helped Canada reach the quarter-finals at the Under-17 World Cup earlier this year in Costa Rica.
“I’m excited to walk onto the pitch and play in front of everyone. All of that pressure is kind of scary, but exciting at the same time. We’re all ecstatic.”
Yekka and Buchanan, who are 17 and 18 respectively, are among the most experienced players on the team, having each made several appearances with Canada’s senior squad.
Under-20 teammates Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence and Rebecca Quinn were also called up to the senior team recently.
“We have a lot of good, talented players up front and the team’s really strong in general,” Buchanan said.
“I feel like the back line is definitely experienced, but the whole team’s strong.”
Despite having so many players with senior level experience, Canada is sending the youngest team it has ever fielded at the U-20 World Cup. In fact, head coach Andrew Olivieri thinks it will be the youngest team any country has ever sent to that tournament.
Of the 21 players, captain Kinley McNicoll, Ashley Campbell and Janine Beckie are the only players born in 1994, the final birth year of eligibility.
“This is just our commitment as a program to sustaining the future of our women’s national team,” Olivieri said.
“The players are good enough and old enough and although we’re bringing a young team to the tournament, it’s only because they are the most talented players in our country.”
Yekka and Buchanan believe playing on home soil will help them prepare for what lies ahead next year when Canada hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
After winning bronze at the 2012 Olympics, Canada is considered one of the top contenders in that tournament.
As they were being introduced this morning, each player was greeted to a line of high fives from more than 20 youth soccer players.
That experience made Yekka realize how much the next generation of stars looks up to the team.
“I remember when I was that age and I was crazy excited to see or meet some of the players on the national team,” she said.
“The fact that some of those girls look up to me in that way makes me feel really good. Hopefully they can continue to be inspired just by watching me and the rest of the team play.”
Canada will compete in Group A with Ghana, Finland and Korea next month. After the Aug. 5 opener against Ghana, they’ll face Finland on Aug. 8 in Toronto and Korea on Aug. 12 in Montreal to conclude the preliminary round.
Edmonton and Moncton are the other host cities for the event.
The quarter-finals will be played on Aug. 16 and 17, followed by the semi-finals on Aug. 20 and the medal games on Aug. 24.