Whitby star striker leading Canada U20 squad into World Cup


Published July 25, 2022 at 12:49 pm

A quartet of Durham Region athletes will be suiting up for Canada at the U20 World Cup in Costa Rica next month.

Leading the Canadian team will be Whitby’s Olivia Smith, who became the youngest ever international when she was tapped by Bev Priestman to play a couple of senior matches for Canada at a tournament in China in 2019 at the age of 15. Smith, who has committed to Penn State University in September, was Canada’s leading scorer in the CONCACAF U20 qualifying round with seven goals.

Nikayla Small of Pickering is another budding talent on the U20 team. Small has also been called up to play for the senior team but has yet to get into a match.

Other players on the squad with Durham roots include Serita Thurton of Ajax and Miya Grant-Clavijo, who began her minor soccer career in Ajax before moving to Toronto at the age of eight.

Team captain Jayde Rose (Harvard) has also suited up for the senior team twice. The Markham athlete was a rock on defence for Canada in qualifying, as was her Harvard teammate Anna Karpenko (Richmond Hill), who was named top goalkeeper in the tournament. Like Small, Karpenko has been called by Priestman to the national team but has not yet suited up for the senior national team.

Olivia Smith

Canada qualified for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup earlier this year by finishing in third place at the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. Across seven matches in just over two weeks, Canada posted six wins and one loss with 32 goals scored and just one goal conceded in seven international matches against CONCACAF competition.

The Canadian women lost their first crack at qualifying for the World Cup when they were beaten 1-0 by Mexico in the CONCACAF semi-final. But they made no mistake in the third-place game, beating Puerto Rico 2-0 on first-half goals by Zoe Burns and Florianne Jourde.

Canada had outscored its opposition 30-0 in winning five straight at the tournament prior to running into the Mexicans.

This will be the first FIFA youth tournament since the global pandemic canceled global tournaments in 2020 and 2021. Already this year, Canada have qualified for both the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022 and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022. From the Concacaf region, Canada, Mexico, USA and hosts Costa Rica have all qualified for this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Canada have been drawn into a challenging Group C for the World Cup (August 10-28), facing Korea on August 11, France on August 14 and Nigeria on August 17 All of Canada’s matches will be broadcast live on TSN and RDS.

France finished fourth, second and third at the last three editions of the FIFA championship and defeated Germany in the final of the 2019 European Women’s Under-19 Championship.

Nigeria, runner-up in 2010 and 2014, has advanced to the knockout rounds in seven of its nine trips to the tournament. South Korea was third in 2010 and has made the quarter-finals on two of its four other visits to the championship.

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