Monday 14 October 2019, 07:45

Canada eye another step forward in Brazil

  • Canada open Brazil 2019 against the hosts on 26 October

  • Their first FIFA U-17 World Cup since 2013

  • A win on this stage has eluded them in six prior appearances

For Canada, the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 presents a chance to measure the strides their men's youth program has made in the last decade.

Though the Canada U-17 national team have not qualified for the World Cup since 2013, they will be competing at the world finals for the fourth time since 2009. Both the U-15 and U-17 teams reached the semi-finals of their respective Concacaf Championships this year for the first time in nearly two decades.

“This group has a chance to put forth the best performance by a Canadian team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup and put the shirt in a better place,” said head coach Andrew Olivieri in a statement. “The FIFA U-17 World Cup will provide valuable experience for these young players as they compete in meaningful matches in a big competition."

Few teams at Brazil 2019 punched their ticket in more dramatic fashion. After top-three finishes at the Concacaf U-17 Championship in 2011 and 2013, the Canadians toiled outside the World Cup qualifying places in 2015 and 2017. This past May, it all came down to a penalty shoot-out against rivals Costa Rica.

Following a tense 120 minutes that ended 1-1, goalkeeper Marc Kouadio and captain Gianfranco Facchineri bookended the shoot-out with heroics that sent Canada through to their seventh FIFA U-17 World Cup. Kouadio made a full-extension stop of Costa Rica's opening attempt, diving to his right, while Facchineri ripped the deciding kick into the back-left corner of the net, as his side prevailed 4-3 on penalties.

Canada succumbed to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of USA in the semi-finals, who in turn fell 2-1 to Mexico in the continental final. But the Canadians maintain plenty of pride heading into their opening match against hosts Brazil on 26 October.

“It’s a special day and I think that what these young men have already accomplished in taking us to a FIFA U-17 World Cup will really start to sink in for them,” Olivieri said immediately after the draw was held in Zurich. "It speaks volumes for what we can achieve as a country when we work so hard together.

“I’ve had a few [players] already message me how excited and happy they are to get such a great first match,” added Olivieri in an interview with The Canadian Press. “I don’t think you can ask for more than to play a team of Brazil’s quality. But to do it in the opening match is that much more special for them. It’s exciting.”

Still looking for their first win at a FIFA U-17 World Cup, the Canucks will follow up their Group A opener with fixtures against tournament debutants Angola (29 October) and eight-time participants New Zealand (1 November). All three matches will be played at the Bezerrão Stadium in Brasilia.

With the Seleção as the only team in Group A to have ever advanced past the Round of 16, a clear opportunity exists for Canada to make history and prove themselves as a footballing nation on the rise.

Julian Altobelli of the Canada U-17 national team celebrates