SAN CRISTÓBAL, Dominican Republic — Renee Watson's goal early in the second half helped Canada win its opening-round group at the CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship with a 1-1 draw with Jamaica on Thursday.
It was a far more even affair after earlier lopsided Canadian wins over the Dominican Republic and Bermuda in Group F play.
Natoya Atkinson put Jamaica (2-0-1) ahead in the 38th minute at the Estadio Panamericano when she raced past one would-be tackler and sent in a cross that hit a Canadian defender. Goalkeeper Coralie Lallier could only get one hand to the deflected ball which dropped in front of Atkinson, with the unmarked Jamaican No. 9 knocking the ball home.
It was the first goal conceded by Canada (2-0-1) at the tournament.
Watson, a halftime substitution, tied it in the 50th minute when, after taking a feed from Mya Archibald, she accelerated past Jamaican defender Tyesha Nelson and beat goalkeeper Liya Brooks with a left-footed shot high into the goal.
The Canadians, who won the group by virtue of superior goal difference over Jamaica, had more of the play in the second half but could not take advantage after Watson's strike.
Brooks made a key stop in the 90th minute when she saved a shot from Anna Hauer making a late run into the penalty box.
Canada will now face Honduras on Sunday in the round of 16, which features the top three finishers in each of the four groups plus St. Kitts and Nevis, Curacao, Honduras and Guyana, who booked their ticket at an earlier qualifying tournament in Bradenton, Fla.
The CONCACAF champion, runner-up and third-place finisher will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India in October.
Canada, led by Rosa Maalouf's six goals, defeated the Dominican Republic 10-0 and Bermuda 5-0 in its first two games in Santo Domingo. The Canadians outshot Bermuda 43-0 (17-0 in shots on target), hitting the woodwork five times, with 35 corners.
Jamaica beat Bermuda 7-0 before downing the Dominicans 3-1.
Facing a congested schedule, Canada coach Emma Humphries continued to rotate her roster in making seven changes to the starting lineup that blanked Bermuda on Tuesday.
Maalouf came close for Canada in the ninth minute Thursday when her header off an Archibald cross hit the goalpost. The ensuing corner was headed away by a Jamaican defender but only as far as Jeneva Hernandez-Gray whose shot hit the crossbar.
Maalouf scored in the 30th minute but the goal was waved off for a foul on Brooks, whom the Canadian forward had dispossessed.
Canada had 58 percent possession and outshot Jamaica 7-5 in the first half but the Jamaicans had the lone shot on target.
The U.S. is defending CONCACAF champion, having dispatched Mexico 3-2 in the 2018 final. The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Canada won the CONCACAF U-17 tournament in 2010. It was runner-up in 2012 and 2013 and finished third in 2016 and 2018.
The Canadian women qualified for the six previous editions of the FIFA-U-17 Women's World Cup, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in 2018 when they downed Germany 1-0 in the quarterfinals before falling 1-0 to Mexico in the semifinal. The Canadians lost 2-1 to New Zealand in the third-place game.
Forward Jordyn Huitema, now with Paris Saint-Germain, captained that 2018 Canadian team with Rhian Wilkinson, now in charge of the NWSL Portland Thorns, as coach.
Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and host India have already qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Canada finished third at the recent CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic, qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica later this year in Costa Rica.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2022
The Canadian Press