After years of missed opportunities, a re-evaluated youth development system, and a second-place finish at the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Jamaica, Canada's U-17 national team are ready to represent their country at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico.
For the first time since 1995 in Ecuador, Canada have qualified for a U-17 World Cup, with their appearance at Mexico 2011 marking the fifth time they have participated in the competition. Sean Fleming's side have been drawn in Group C versus Uruguay, England, and Rwanda, with the tournament running from Saturday, June 18, to Sunday, July 10. "It will be a great challenge," Fleming told CanadaSoccer.com. "The team has prepared to the best of its ability and now we hope to give a good showing for Canada."
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency defenders Adam Polakiewicz and Daniel Stanese join midfielders Bryce Alderson (Canada U-17 captain), Yassin Essa, and Matteo Pasquotti on Fleming's 20-player squad for the competition. The five Residency players have been a positive influence for the 'Caps success in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) so far this season.
Canada qualified for the event after a strong showing at the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in February, which serves as CONCACAF's qualifying tournament for this year's U-17 World Cup. Canada performed well in the group stage, finishing in first place after thumping Barbados 8-0 before drawing 0-0 with Honduras to secure a spot in the knockout stages. Canada defeated Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 in the quarterfinals to earn their berth in the U-17 World Cup before disposing of Panama 1-0 in the semifinals. Canada eventually fell to arch-rivals United States in the final.
Since that time, Canada's U-17 squad have been in preparations, with Fleming holding a training camp in Sunrise, Florida, in May as a selection process to determine his players for Mexico 2011. As part of their build-up for the U-17 World Cup, Canada participated in two recent international friendlies against Ecuador and Australia, losing both by scores of 1-0 and 2-1 respectively.
Canada will face Uruguay on Sunday before battling England next Wednesday. Fleming's squad complete their group-stage campaign versus Rwanda on Saturday, June 25. All three of Canada's group matches will be played in Pachuca, Mexico. All round-robin matches will be broadcast live on CBC's Bold TV and streamed live at CBCSports.ca, with the Sunday and Wednesday matches starting at 3:55 p.m. PT, while the June 25 contest will start at 1 p.m. PT. The CBC main network will replay all three round-robin matches later those same evenings.
Should Canada advance from the group stage, they will play in the Round of 16 on either on Wednesday, June 29, or Thursday, June 30. The quarterfinals are set for Sunday, July 3, and Monday, July 4, while the semifinals will take place on Thursday, July 7. The third-place match and the final will take place Mexico City's world-famous Estadio Azteca on Sunday, July 10.
In the 2009 U-17 World Cup in Nigeria, Uruguay looked strong by advancing out of the group stage before losing in the quarterfinals against Spain on penalties. Uruguay continued their dominant youth play by qualifying for the U-17 World Cup at the 2011 South American U-17 Championship, as they finished second in the tournament in Ecuador.
England's qualification saw them begin in Group A at the 2011 UEFA European U-17 Championship in Serbia. After placing second in the group, The Young Lions advanced to the semifinals and earned a berth to Mexico 2011. England would go on to lose 1-0 to the Netherlands in the semis.
Rwanda hosted the 2011 African U-17 Championship and qualified for the U-17 World Cup after reaching the semifinals of the competition in January. Rwanda defeated Cote d’Ivoire in the semifinals before falling 2-1 to Burkina Faso in the final.