For Canada, the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 will provide a chance to gauge the progress made by its men’s youth program over the past decade.
Although the Canadian U-17 national team has not qualified for the World Cup since 2013, they have been competing in the World Cup for the fourth time since 2009. Both the U-15 and U-17 national teams reached the semi-final This is the first Concacaf championship this year for almost two decades.
“This group has the chance to do the best job of a Canadian team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup and bring the jersey to a better place,” said head coach Andrew Olivieri in a statement. “The FIFA U-17 World Cup will bring valuable experience to these young players as they compete in major games in a major competition.”
Only a handful of teams from Brazil 2019 have beaten their ticket dramatically. Following the top 3 finishers in the 2011-2013 U-17 Championship at Concacaf, Canadians have beaten themselves outside World Cup qualifying places in 2015 and 2017. Last May saw a penalty shoot-out against rival Costa Rica.
Goalkeeper Marc Kouadio and captain Gianfranco Facchineri ended the penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes of heroic action that brought Canada to its seventh FIFA U-17 World Cup. Kouadio completely stopped Costa Rica’s opening attempt and dived to his right, while Facchineri tore the deciding step into the left back corner of the net when his side won 4-3 on penalties.
Canada lost 2-0 in the semi-finals, losing 1-1 to Mexico in the continental final. But Canadians are still very proud of their opening match against hosts Brazil on 26 October.
“It’s a special day, and I think that what these young men have already achieved to lead us to a FIFA U-17 World Cup pays off for them,” said Olivieri immediately after the draw in Zurich. “It speaks volumes for what we as a country can achieve if we work so hard together.
“I already had some [players] telling me how excited and happy they are to have such a great first game,” added Olivieri in an interview with The Canadian Press. “I do not think you can ask for more than to play for a team of Brazilian quality, but to do that in the opening game is even more special for them, it’s exciting.”
The Canucks, still looking for their first FIFA U-17 World Cup victory, will play in Group A after beating Angola (29 October) and the eight-time New Zealand player (1 November) after their opening game. All three games will be played in the Bezerrão Stadium in Brasilia.
With the Seleção as the only team in Group A that has ever survived the knockout stages, Canada has a clear chance to make history and prove itself as an emerging footballing nation.