The Caribbean region will be represented at the 2018 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, as Haiti defeated Canada 1-0 in the third-place match of the CONCACAF U20 Women’s Championship earlier today.
This is the first time that a team from the Caribbean is qualifying for this tournament. Both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago have finished fourth overall on separate occasions.
After never having advanced past the group stage in any of their previous four appearances at the CONCACAF Championships, Haiti took full advantage of the tremendous opportunity.
The qualification was just reward for the Haitians efforts in the tournament, where they were the most consistent team from the region. They were ably led by captain and leading goalscorer Nerlia Mondesir, who represents Montpellier in France.
Mondesir, who had 14 goals throughout their qualification campaign, led the Haitian comeback in their enthralling opening encounter against the host nation Trinidad & Tobago.
The young Haitians were down 0-2 after just 20 minutes before Mondesir’s crucial hat-trick saw them take all three points.
In their next game, they secured qualification with another narrow 3-2 win over Costa Rica, though this one they controlled from early in the game after opening the scoring in the 5th minute.
With their qualification to the business end of the tournament secured, the coaching staff made a raft of changes for their third group game.
They then were thrashed 4-0 by Canada settling for second place in the group. The lopsided loss didn’t seem to affect the team’s confidence when they went toe to toe with regional women’s football powerhouse and tournament favoUrites USA in the semi-final.
A rigid, disciplined display saw them down only 1-0 entering into added time, when Mondesir came to the rescue, scoring a brilliant goal to give the team renewed hope of reaching the final. However, the Haitians eventually lost on penalties.
A re-match with the Canadians ensued, and with the third-place team in the tournament assured of a World Cup berth, the Haitian women, fully aware of a chance to make history, were up to the task.
A solitary strike early in the game by Sheryl Jeudy, assisted by Mondesir, was enough to beat the team from North America and secure their first-ever berth to the FIFA U20 Women World Cup.
The tournament is set to be played in France from August 5 – 24.
For many of the Haitian girls, who are based in the European country, it could be like playing at home.