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Spain thrashes Canada to open U20WWC

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Spain had five goals. Canada had one shot on goal.

We haven’t had a good navel-gazing worry over the state of our women’s soccer program in the last few months. But, for those who stayed up to watch Canada’s U-20 Women’s World Cup opener against Spain in Papua New Guinea, it was obvious early on that Canada wasn’t going to come close to getting anything out of the game.

Two minutes in, and a simple route-one ball up the gut sent Maria Caldentey in alone to score the opener. It was the beginning of what was going to be a very rough afternoon for the central defensive pairing of Mika Richards and Biana St. Georges.

After Lucia Garcia beat Richards to a cross to score Spain’s second, we began to realize that constants of Canadian soccer — being decent in the air, able to be more physical than the opposition — weren’t there either.

But, where did this talent gap come from? Look, it was 32 C with high humidity, not great conditions for Canadian soccer players. And it goes without saying that Canada misses Jessie Fleming, our 1998-born midfield star who has commitments with UCLA at the moment.

Still, Spain is what we might consider a rising power in women’s soccer, not an established one. The fact that their youth team passed Canada into the ground — enjoying almost three-quarters of the ball in the first half — was, ahem, mildly concerning.

Having to chase the game from so early on, in the South Pacific heat, the Canadians had little left in the tank for the second half. Goalkeeper Rylee Foster was the most active of the bunch, kicking her ball out of the net after Aitani Bonmati, Patricia Guijarro and Garcia (her second) scored their goals.

Bonmati scored on a header, and Garcia’s came late as she got behind an exhausted and flat-footed Canadian back four.

Women’s U-20 coach Danny Worthington echoed national women’s team coach John Herdman’s credo that the Canadian program needs to produce “more Sinclairs, more often.” After that opener, we might be happy with another Buchanan. ‘

But, if Canada can’t deal with the hot, humid conditions, Worthington is going to have to find a way to protect those two centre backs.

At the same time, he has two games to figure out how to finish top-two in the group stage with a -5 goal differential on his plate. Japan beat Nigeria 6-0 in their opener. Canada has Nigeria next. If Canada doesn’t lay a thrashing on the Nigerians, it looks like there will be little hope of passing Japan or Spain.

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