Canada Soccer

Canada remains undefeated with yet another big result at the Toulon tournament

Posted on 3 June 2018 in ↳ Men's EXCEL U-14 to U-23

The young Canadians remained undefeated with a 1:1 draw against Japan in their final group play match at 2018 Festival International Espoirs Provence thanks to an early goal by Theo Bair. With five points from three matches, Canada finished second in a tough group with Turkey clinching first place by a mere point. 

It was another impressive result for the Canadians on Sunday 3 June, who previously drew 0:0 with Portugal on Monday and took a 1:0 victory against Turkey on Thursday. Canada finished the group stage with a win and two draws, allowing only one goal in three matches. Canada will next face the hosts France in the match for 5th place on Thursday 7 June at Stade d'Honneur in Mallemort. The match will be broadcast live on BeIn Sports Canada at 16.00 local (10.00 ET / 07.00 PT). Throughout the competition, fans can follow the Canadian team across Canada Soccer’s digital channels including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

“You come into the tournament with the belief that when you are in it, you are here to compete and go as far as you possibly can,” said John Herdman, Canada’s co-coach along with Mauro Biello for the Toulon tournament in France. “We wanted to be the story of the tournament with this group of men. They wanted to be the spark and to achieve something that had not been done before. That was their motivation. It is our first time at this tournament and they wanted to pick up some firsts as a team. Whether it was team spirit or tactical excellence, they worked at ways to bring this group together.”

Canada's starting lineup once again featured a number of teenagers, with seven players under the age of 20 getting the start in this important game, including debutant Clément Bayiha.

Canada took the lead in the 10th minute on a quick attack when Japan turned the ball over in their own half. Noah Verhoeven, the hero from Canada’s win against Turkey, quickly slid a pass through the Japanese defenders to Bair, who was able to create enough space to clinically slide his shot into the bottom corner.

Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma equalized in the 60th minute, sliding a shot past Canadian goalkeeper James Pantemis. The goal was the first allowed by Canada at the tournament.
Pantemis led the Canadian backline with a number of key saves throughout the game, including a crucial leg save on a shot from the top of the box that was then cleared by the Canadian defenders. Canada’s centre back Derek Cornelius led by example, putting his body on the line on numerous occasions, including a heroic block that stopped Japan from taking the lead late in the match.

Japan put increased pressure on the Canadians as the match continued, knowing that they needed to score a second goal in order to advance to the semi-finals. The entire Canadian squad defended heroically to hold on for the draw, giving themselves the chance to move on in their first appearance at the tournament.

“The boys have been really focused and coming out of the result against Portugal (in the opener) there has been a belief there that tactics and the approach is working," said Herdman. "Coming through the week, they have shown that level of adaptability. It was only when fatigue set in that they hurt us.”

It has been a tremendous journey for the Canadian side in such a short period of time. Playing together for the first time and competing at a major tournament for the first time, the young Canadians came through three tough matches undefeated.

"We are changing the culture," said Herdman. "We have an opportunity to inspire the players at the younger age groups. We have a chance to ignite our players."

The 46th edition of the Toulon tournament runs 26 May to 9 June. Across the three groups: Mexico won Group A ahead of England, China PR, and Qatar; Scotland won Group B ahead of France, Togo, and Korea Republic; Turkey won Group C ahead of Canada, Japan, and Portugal. Beyond the completed group phase, the classification matches (fifth to 12th place) are 5 and 7 June, the semi-finals are 6 June, and both the match for third place and championship final are 9 June.

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