Bangkok, Thailand - Canadas Womens Under-19 team opened the 2004 FIFA U19 Womens World Championship with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Group A opponent Australia this evening in steamy Bangkok, Thailand. Canada raced out to a two-goal lead early in the contest but Australia quickly grabbed a goal back in the first few moments of the second half. The Aussies searched hard for the equalizer, despite having their goalkeeper sent off midway through the second half, but they failed to find a way past Indiana University' sophomore goalkeeper Stacey Van Boxmeer. In the end it was Canada who walked away with full points and a share of top spot in Group A.
Both teams looked tentative from the onset and seemed content to battle for control of the middle of the park. But after the 10 minute mark, the Canucks began to stretch the Aussies and a goal seemed imminent.
Brittany Timko was the first to get in behind the Australian back four but as she reached the top of the area, she was hurried into shooting earlier than she had wanted by the Australian defense. The resulting shot sailed high over the goal but the Coquitlam, BC native seemed buoyed by the service she was now receiving.
Timko then took the match by the scruff of the neck for a five minute spell that saw the Canadians spring to a two-goal lead with goals in the 14th and 19th minutes.
A long ball played into the area bounced fortuitously to the Canadian striker. Her initial shot toward goal was blocked but Timko calmly shifted the ball past her marker then lifted her shot into the open goal. Timko then reacted faster than anyone to a stray ball at the top of the box five minutes later and hammered a right footed blast into the upper right corner of the Aussie goal.
The Australians however immediately fought back and were presented with their best chance of the half. A ricochet fell to the foot of an Aussie striker at the top of the Canadian area but her shot sailed harmlessly over Van Boxmeer's goal.
Coaticook, QC native Josee Belanger looked as though she would stretch the lead to three in the 27th minute when she was the recipient of an errant header from an Aussie central defender. Belanger settled the ball and fired a rasping shot off the left post but the rebound was hurried away by Australia.
The last quarter of an hour looked very much like the opening ten minutes with both teams appearing to feel the effects of the searing heat.
Australian head coach, Adrian Santrac, then took a tactical risk after the half-time interval by making all three of his substitutions. The change paid immediate dividends but may have negated any chance of stealing some valuable points after full-time.
The Aussies, straight from the second half kick-off seemed determined to reduce the deficit quickly and after five minutes had done just that.
A looping ball from the right side of the Canadian goal was swung into the area. Robyn Gayle (Mississauga, ON) and an Australian striker both challenged for the cross but at first glance, the Australian seemed to have nudged the Canadian defender in the back. The contact went uncalled by the Slovak referee and the ball skipped to the far post where an unmarked Collette McCallum was stationed. McCallum made no mistake with the gift she had been presented with, thundering her shot into the back of the Canadian goal in the 49th minute.
In the 69th minute however, Timko would have another major impact on the game.
A long ball from the Canadian defense exposed the Australian back four and Timko once again was quickest. The striker made her way toward the top of the area but was met by an onrushing Alison Logue in the Australian goal. The keeper blocked Timkos shot but had done so outside the area. The Slovak referee immediately sent the keeper off and with no substitutions remaining, Santrac was forced to hand one his second half substitutes, Kylie Ledbrook, the goalkeepers jersey.
Ledbrook was immediately tested by the ensuing freekick but did extremely well to block the initial shot and then smother the rebound before two onrushing Canadians could pounce.
Australia fought valiantly for the equalizer and almost had it in the 84th minute when a free kick from 35 yards out seemed destined for the corner. But Van Boxmeer, at full-stretch, palmed the shot away for a corner.
The Canadians hung on for the final whistle and in the end walked away with full points.
Obviously I am happy to get the points and in the process virtually guarantee a spot in the next round but I think we have to find a way to deal with the pressure and the opening few games of a tournament like this, said Canadian Head Coach, Ian Bridge. With some more clinical finishing, passing, and individual initiative, we could have had a far more convincing victory.
Bridge went on to praise the Aussies for the fight they demonstrated throughout.
Full credit to Australia for battling very hard, especially after going down to ten players. They will definitely be a handful for whomever they play.
Sportsnet will broadcast todays match on tape delay at 4:00 p.m. (ET East region)/ 3:30 p.m. (ET Ontario)/ 2:30 p.m. (MT)/ 4:30 p.m. (PT).
Canada will play host Thailand on Saturday, November 13th in their second Group A match.