U-17 World Cup: Canadian youngsters ready for battle
First, the good news for the Canadian Under-17 national team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup: They still control their own destiny, meaning that a win in their final group-stage match would assure them a berth in the Round of 16.
Now, the bad news: They're playing Argentina.
Canada currently sit second in Group E with two points after a pair of hard-fought draws against Austria (2-2) and Iran (1-1), while Argentina lead the group with four points after drawing Iran (1-1) and beating Austria (3-2).
The tightness of the standings heading into Friday’s game (9 a.m. PT, Sportsnet World, WatchESPN) means only one thing is guaranteed for the Canadians: Win and you’re in.
A tie would still give Canada a chance of advancing in second place, which they could do if the group's other game, between Iran and Austria, finishes in a tie, and Iran do not outscore Canada on the day. A loss would likely eliminate Canada, because only four of the six third-place finishers advance, and there are already four teams sitting in third place with at least three points.
Canada needed some late-game goalkeeping heroics from Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency member Marco Carducci to preserve a result against Iran, but the team has generated plenty of scoring opportunities thus far in the tournament. Toronto FC Academy striker Jordan Hamilton has scored twice, while midfielder Hanson Boakai has shown just why FC Edmonton made him the youngest player to ever sign a first-team contract in the NASL.
Argentina were the early favorites in Group E but have not yet shown the dominance expected of them. The team was the top qualifier out of the tightly contested CONMEBOL region (edging out Brazil and Venezuela on goal differential), with promising striker Sebastian Driussi leading the charge with five goals during qualifying.
Driussi, who is in the system of famed Argentinian club River Plate, scored in Argentina’s 1-1 draw with Iran on Tuesday and will surely be one for the Canadian defenders to keep an eye on.
Canada vs. Argentina and Austria vs. Iran are the tournament’s last group-stage games and will kick off simultaneously, meaning that once the final whistle blows on Friday, the Canadians will know exactly where they sit.
"Next game is a must win for us," Boakai tweeted following Tuesday's draw.