Girls eye re­turn to fi­nal

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - DEREK VAN DIEST

SALOU, Spain — two years ago canada, made it to the fi­nal of the first girls tour­na­ment at the danone Na­tions cup.

in or­der to re­turn this year, canada is go­ing to need to put to­gether an in­spired sec­ond day of the tour­na­ment af­ter open­ing with a win, a loss and draw, which puts it sec­ond in its group fol­low­ing the open­ing day of play thurs­day at the Salou Soc­cer Sports com­plex.

canada, which is play­ing in the 2018 edi­tion of the 56-team, 27-coun­try tour­na­ment, de­feated eng­land 2-0 in its open­ing game, then lost to France 3-0 be­fore play­ing a score­less tie with the United States. the three teams meet in an­other round-robin Fri­day with the top team af­ter two days ad­vanc­ing to the fi­nal Satur­day.

“it’s just a gor­geous, gor­geous venue, and i think that that’s ex­cit­ing for the play­ers to be able to see that and live the cul­ture of foot­ball here in Spain.” said canada head coach dean Howie. “i think that that’s some­thing that we maybe don’t see enough of this cul­ture at all, so i think that’s an amaz­ing eye-opener for them.

“i think that’s what hap­pened against France, we sort of got shell-shocked a lit­tle bit, giv­ing up an early goal, and then we went, ‘Holy, geez, we’re in Spain, play­ing France’. af­ter we fell be­hind 1-0 it got real.”

France is one of the strong­est sides in the eight-team tour­na­ment, also fea­tur­ing italy, Spain, Germany and brazil. the French de­feated the United States 3-1 and eng­land 4-0 in the one-half, 20-minute, eight-a-side for­mat.

“against the amer­i­cans, i think we gave up one op­por­tu­nity and we had a cou­ple, but we weren’t ef­fi­cient in that we weren’t dan­ger­ous in the at­tack­ing third,” Howie said. “i think we need to be a bit more dan­ger­ous.”

Howie is coach­ing in his 18th danone Na­tions cup and still marvels at the event and how well it’s or­ga­nized. the tour­na­ment is tak­ing place at the sprawl­ing soc­cer fa­cil­ity in Salou, an hour’s drive south of barcelona. the fi­nals will be held Satur­day at the rcde Sta­dium just out­side of barcelona, home to La Liga club es­panyol.

this year, to cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of the tour­na­ment the 2018 and 2019 events are be­ing held in con­junc­tion. canada is com­pet­ing in the 2018 tour­na­ment, which was not held last year.

“it’s a dou­ble round-robin,” Howie said. “So i think Fri­day we can we can do some­thing against the amer­i­cans and, hope­fully, maybe pack in the back and get a tie against France. you never know what can hap­pen.”

canada lost on penalty kicks to brazil at the in­au­gu­ral girls tour­na­ment two years ago at the red bull arena in Har­ri­son, N.J. in or­der to get into the fi­nal this time, they have to finish first in their group, mean­ing they will likely have to beat France to over­take them in the stand­ings.

“this tour­na­ment has been re­ally cool,” said canada de­fender Gabby ramdeen from Whitby, Ont. “the first day we were a bit ner­vous, but i think it’s get­ting bet­ter. i’ve never played against teams from eng­land or France be­fore, so that’s been cool and it’s cool to just walk around and hear all the chants.”

the cana­dian team was se­lected last year and came to­gether re­cently to pre­pare for the tour­na­ment. Other teams have been prac­tis­ing to­gether for the ma­jor­ity of the year, in­clud­ing France, which fea­tures play­ers from the Olympique Ly­on­nais academy, the best women’s club team in the world.

“this is the first time i’ve had a chance to play a team from an­other coun­try and it was cool play­ing against France,” said Melodie beaulieu from Que­bec. “What was nice was that i was able to talk to them in French.”

the teams at the tour­na­ment are hav­ing nearly as much fun off the field as they are on it.

“When i found out i was com­ing to this tour­na­ment i knew it would be amaz­ing, but i didn’t know how amaz­ing it would be,” said canada Kayla di tiero of Ot­tawa.

SUP­PLIED / DANONE NA­TIONS CUP

Olivia Chen of Canada com­petes against Eng­land at the Danone Na­tions Cup in Salou, Spain yes­ter­day. Canada won the game 2-0.

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