U-20 Women’s World Cup a launch pad for Christine Sinclair

Canada's Christine Sinclair. (Darryl Dyck/AP)

Throughout its history, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup has proven to be an excellent gauge of the players coming through the Canadian youth system.

Canada’s 2012 Olympic bronze medal squad featured 13 players who previously suited up in the U-20 tournament, while this year’s Rio team had a total of 16.

With the 2016 competition set to kick off on Sunday in Papua New Guinea, here’s a closer look at Canada’s past performances at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup:

2002—Hosted by Canada
The inaugural tournament was held in Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria, and at that time it was dubbed the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. Many players from that Canadian side went on to be household names, thanks in part to their second-place finish, losing to the United States in extra time in the gold medal match—47,784 packed Edmonton’s Common-wealth Stadium for that final game.

Christine Sinclair scored 10 goals to win the Golden Shoe as the tournament top scorer. She was also named MVP and was the Golden Ball recipient. Sinclair still holds the single tournament goal-scoring record with Germany’s Alexandra Popp, who netted 10 in 2010.

Four Canadians were named to the tournament’s all-star team: Erin McLeod, Christine Sinclair, Candace Chapman and Carmelina Moscato.

Canada won all three of its group stage matches with victories over Denmark, Japan and Nige-ria. Sinclair would score five goals in her side’s 6-2 rout over England in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Canada needed penalty kicks to advance over a Brazilian side that featured a young Marta.

Notable Canadian players: Christine Sinclair, Mel Booth, Brittany Timko, Candace Chapman, Robyn Gayle, Kara Lang, Erin McLeod, Carmelina Moscato, Clare Rustad, Katie Thor-lakson

Tournament champion: USA



2004—Hosted by Thailand
Canada finished second in its group and was eliminated from tournament in the knockout stage, losing 3-1 to China.

Brittany Timko was the Canadian standout, as she won the Golden Shoe by scoring seven goals in four matches. She was also Canada’s lone representative on the tournament’s all-star team.

B.C. born Sydney Leroux, who was just 14 at the time, played two matches for Canada. This marked her only action representing Canada, as she later joined the American program.

Notable Canadian players: Brittany Timko, Josée Bélanger, Robyn Gayle, Selenia Iac-chelli, Stephanie Labbé, Sophie Schmidt, Kara Lang, Emily Zurrer, Jodi-Ann Robinson

Tournament champion: Germany



2006—Hosted by Russia
This marked the first time the tournament was called the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The field also expanded from 12 nations to 16.

Canada had a tough showing in Group B, which included China, Nigeria and Finland. Because they finished third with one win and two losses, they didn’t advance to the knockout stage.

Jodi-Ann Robinson led the squad in scoring with two goals.

Notable Canadian players: Stephanie Labbé, Sophie Schmidt, Jodi-Ann Robinson, Emily Zurrer, Selenia Iacchelli, Kaylyn Kyle, Desiree Scott

Tournament champion: North Korea



2008—Hosted by Chile
Much like two years earlier, Canada was in a competitive group with Japan, Germany and Con-go. They didn’t advance to the quarterfinals after their one win and two losses.

Notable Canadian players: Allysha Chapman, Jonelle Filigno, Kaylyn Kyle, Chelsea Stew-art, Shannon Woeller

Tournament champion: USA



2010—Hosted by Germany
Canada did not qualify.

Tournament champion: Germany



2012—Hosted by Japan
A disappointing performance for the Canadians put them in 11th place when all was said and done. While they started the tournament strong with a 6-0 victory over Argentina, subsequent one-goal losses to Norway and North Korea sealed their fate.

Adriana Leon led the team in scoring with three goals and an assist. Shelina Zadorsky served as captain.

The aftermath of the tournament marked a turning point in the Canadian youth system. Headed by John Herdman, the EXCEL program was implemented by the Canadian Soccer Association to allow more galvanization between the youth players and the senior team.

Notable Canadian players: Sabrina D’Angelo, Nkem Ezurike, Adriana Leon, Shelina Za-dorsky

Tournament champion: USA



2014—Hosted by Canada
As the country was preparing to host the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U-20 tournament proved to be an excellent opening act for what some dubbed as the main event the following summer.

With matches held from coast-to-coast, it once again whet the appetite for Canadians when it came to the women’s game, and rekindled memories of a successful tournament back in 2002.

Canada reached the quarterfinals for the third time in tournament history, where they would lose to the eventual champions Germany at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. The Reds would, however, capture the FIFA Fair Play Award.

Janine Beckie led the team in scoring with two goals.

This roster showed tremendous resilience. After dropping their first match to Ghana and being on the cusp of losing to Finland, the Canadians scored three unanswered goals against their Scandinavian opponents to captured a crucial 3-2 victory. They wrapped up their group stage with a tidy 1-0 win over North Korea.

From that team, Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan went on to play in the 2015 Women’s World Cup. A year later, they were joined by Nichelle Prince, Rebecca Quinn and Kailen Sheridan on the Olympic squad and won bronze in Rio.

Notable Canadian players: Janine Beckie, Kadeisha Buchanan, Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence, Nichelle Prince, Rebecca Quinn, Kailen Sheridan, Sura Yekka

Tournament champion: Germany

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