Women's Soccer's Gregoire Checks In from FIFA U-20 World Cup
Vanessa Gregoire, an incoming freshman on the Princeton women's soccer team, is playing for Canada at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in her home country, and she's shared a first-person account from the event for GoPrincetonTigers.com.
Canada bounced back from a tournament-opening 1-0 loss to Ghana on August 5 with a 3-2 win over Finland three days later and a 1-0 win over North Korea on August 12. Those results clinched a spot in the knockout round on August 16 in Edmonton where Germany defeated Canada 2-0.
Gregoire's account of the tournament, written heading into the event's knockout round, is below:
Before heading into the tournament I could only imagine what playing at home in a World Cup would be like. I found out on August 5 when we played the opening match in Toronto versus Ghana that it was much more incredible than I had ever expected it to be. The starting 11 walked out onto the field and the crowd of nearly 15,000 people erupted in applause and cheers. We sang the national anthem as loud as we could and heard the crowd join in with immense pride and passion. After over a year and a half of preparation, the moment we were waiting for was finally here.
Ghana came out strong and found the back of the net in the 22nd minute off of a cross. Despite our numerous efforts at goal in the second half, Ghana kept the 1-0 lead until the final whistle and slipped away with 3 points. We knew we had to win our next two games versus Finland and North Korea if we wanted to have a chance at reaching the quarterfinals.
The game versus Finland did not start the way we wanted it to. After conceding a goal in the third minute of the game, followed by another in the 21st, energy levels on the field started to go down. I was among the players on the bench and we knew it was our job to get the girls pumped again. We cheered as loud as we could and we banged on the backboards of the bleachers to get the energy back up again. The score was still 2-0 for Finland after the first 45 minutes of play. Three minutes into the second half one of our subs Janine Beckie scored. Two minutes later Valerie Sanderson, the second sub coming in at half time, scored and tied the game for us. We all went insane! This was our game. We just needed one more goal, and it came in the 80th minute with Nichelle Prince scoring the winner. It was an epic game. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous and ecstatic at the same time! The crowd was amazing. So many young girls and boys came out to support us. It was an amazing feeling to walk around the stadium and see the pride of all of the Canadians who came out to support us.
We enjoyed our night and celebrated the victory, but we quickly went back to work the following day. We flew to Montreal, my hometown, the next morning and started to prepare for our final group stage match versus North Korea. They were exactly how we expected them to be. They were quick on and off the ball, they were very technical, and they defended in a tight block. North Korea had the better chances in the first half, but the score remained 0-0 until the 65th minute when Janine Beckie scored off of a nice build-up play ending with a cross from Nichelle Prince. We kept the lead until the end of the game. Ghana beat Finland 2-1 allowing us to go through to the quarterfinals thanks to a greater goal differential. We were so happy! My entire family, my boyfriend and his family, and my friends came to support us. My boyfriend even made a poster! It was such an incredible feeling to have the people I love most in the world there. It made the evening so much more special than it already was.
The quarterfinal game is on Saturday, August 16 against Germany in Edmonton, Alberta. They’re a very strong opponent and are among the favorites to win the tournament but we will prepare ourselves for anything they throw at us.
It’s an honor to be a part of this team. The girls are incredible both on and off the field. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us throughout the tournament. We hope to make you proud! Go Canada!