Canadians meet Chinese again
By NEIL DAVIDSON
(CP) - It's a draw that could have been easier or could have been more difficult, according to Canadian coach Ian Bridge.
Either way, the Canadian women now know they will be up against China, Finland and Africa 1 (probably Nigeria) when they open first-round play at the world under-20 soccer championships in Russia on Aug. 17.
With the tournament expanding from 12 to 16 teams, Bridge says some a few weaker teams will be along for the ride. "We didn't get any of those in our group," he said.
Instead, Bridge got a tough Chinese side.
"I saw them play about two weeks ago in Malaysia," he said in an interview. "A well-organized skilful team. I didn't think they were the best team in the tournament although they won the tournament."
The Chinese edged North Korea 1-0 in the final of the Asian qualifying event.
China eliminated the Canadians two years ago at the tournament in Thailand, winning their quarter-final matchup 3-1. The Chinese advanced to the final where they were beaten 2-0 by Germany.
The Canadian women went 2-0-1 in the first round in Thailand, including a 3-3 tie with Germany when they recovered from a 3-0 deficit.
The Finns finished fourth in Europe last summer.
"They are very well organized . . . not as athletic as the best European team but a strong football country in the women's game," Bridge said.
The top two in each group move on to the quarter-finals. Canada is in Group B and will meet teams from Group A - Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Russia - in the knockout round of eight if it advances.
Bridge sees Pool A as the strongest group.
Group C consists of Germany, Mexico, North Korea and Switzerland while Group D is made up of Africa 2 (probably South Africa), Argentina, France and the U.S.
Bridge's team was edged 3-2 by the Americans in the final of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Mexico in January.
The Canadian team is coming off a tour of Brazil where it went 1-1-2, beating and tying Brazil and tying and losing to the U.S.
The 4-0 loss to the Americans came at the end of the trip, and was the Canadians' second game in two days.
"They're very strong," Bridge said of the Americans. "They're a confident, skilful athletic team. They've got just about everything you'd want."
Bridge also points to Germany as a team to watch in Russia, saying it was the class of the European qualifying tournament. Brazil is also a strong side.
"We have a chance to do well if we keep progressing," he said of Canada's chances.
Canada reached the final of the inaugural tournament in 2002 only to lose 1-0 to the U.S. on a golden goal before 47,784 at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.