Home Canadian Soccer Lack of scoring touch costs Canada at U-17 World Cup

Lack of scoring touch costs Canada at U-17 World Cup

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Sadi Jalali
It’s an issue that spans generations. It was the reason Canada was eliminated from the Gold Cup after the group stage. It crippled Canada’s attempt to qualify for the U-20 World Cup. And, it’s also the culprit in the group-stage elimination from the U-17 World Cup.

Lack of finish.

In a game that Canada needed to win in order to advance to the round of 16 at the U-17 World Cup, it could only really trouble Rwandan keeper Marcel Nzaroza once in a dour 0-0 draw Saturday in Pachuca, Mexico.

One decent chance — a Keven Aleman drive from outside the box that Nzaroza did well to save about 10 minutes into the second half. Other than a few half chances, Canada did little to threaten the Rwandan goal.

Yes, Canada leaves the U-17 World Cup with two points from three matches; and it’s the new high-water mark for this age group. This team got Canada’s first-ever points at an U-17 World Cup.

But, Canada scored just twice in three games. And, one of those goals, a 60-yard hoof from goalkeeper Quillan Roberts that somehow found the goal in the draw with England, was more the product of luck than sublime attacking skill. In the category of “meant to do that,” Canada scored just once.

Because of the results in other groups, both teams entered the game knowing that the winner would get a spot in the round of 16. A draw, on the other hand, would eliminate both teams.

But, instead of inspiring both teams to throw caution to the wind, the circumstances did just the opposite. Neither team looked like it wanted to test the other’s defence with anything other than long, speculative shots.

Rwanda’s strategy was to shoot from 30 yards out (or more). Don’t get caught on the break.

The half’s most threatening chance (if we can really call it that) came when Mwesigye Tibingana’s long chip at the Canadian goal forced Roberts to retreat to the goal line and parry the ball over the bar.

After Aleman’s chance, Canada and Rwanda each tried to probe each other’s defences, but chances were limited to long, speculative efforts.

Canadian striker Sadi Jalali got behind two Rwandan defenders, placing a deft header into space for himself to run onto. But his resulting shot was scuffed well wide.

Really, the most outstanding individual effort in the game came on the defensive side; Montreal Impact Academy product Ismail Benomar made a perfect all-ball challenge on Rwandan Bonfils Kabanda to break up what was a three-on-two break for the African side.

And, not to take anything away from Benomar, too often we are focused on decent midfield play and staunch defending. Yes, those are key ingredients to success; but until the Canadian program finds a way to nurture scoring talent, we’ll continue to stumble on the international stage.

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