Canada drops Under-20 soccer opener to Nigeria

MOSCOW – Canada’s Women’s National Team came up short against Nigeria Thursday in opening round play at the FIFA U-20 World Championship. Despite taking an early lead, Canada lost 3-2 on a late-game goal that broke a 2-2 tie.

Kaylyn Kyle gave Canada the opening goal in the 25th minute after receiving a long cross by Tayrne Boudreau. Kyle made her way towards the Nigerian net and when goalkeeper Christy Bulus attempted to stop the midfielder she side stepped for a clear shot into the net. Kyle’s goal marked the 200th of the championship since the inaugural event was hosted by Canada in 2002.

But the lead was short lived and four minutes later Nigeria had the equalize. Titilayo Mekuleyi passed up to a rushing Tawa Ishola who was able to slip the ball past Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbe.

In the 71st minute, Sophie Schmidt sent a free kick from just inside the half to Oakville’s Amanda Cicchini who sprinted to just inside the penalty area where she headed the ball over Bulus for the goal.

Two minutes later, the energized Canadians continued to apply pressure on the Nigerian defence as Jamani was able to send a low shot towards the net only to have Bulus smother the ball.

Nigeria bounced back and again evened the score at the 82nd minute mark when Cynthia Uwak powered a shot from 20 yards out from the net towards the inside the of opposite post where an outstretched Labbe was unable to redirect the shot out of harm.

Uwak eventually scored the winner for Nigeria in injury time on header off of a cross by Eke Maureen.

“This was a wide open tactical game with two fabulous goals by Nigeria late in the game,” said Canadian boss Ian Bridge. “I give Nigeria loads of credit as in the last ten minutes they were a dynamic, exciting team pushing people forward. Not necessarily what you want to see when it’s coming at you.”

“We now have to work hard against Finland and China.”

In the earlier match of the day, China defeated Finland 2-1.

Canada continues in Group B against Finland on Sunday before meeting China on Wednesday. The top two teams will proceed into the quarterfinals which take place on August 26.

The Golden Horseshoe’s other player on the team is Lisa Collison of Niagara Falls.