A few years from now, Canadian goalkeeper Marco Carducci will likely reflect on how playing in the FIFA U-17 World Cup helped prepare him for his professional career.
But for now, he’s concentrating on one thing: getting a win in Canada’s next game.
“To represent your country in the World Cup is huge,” Carducci told MLSsoccer.com by phone from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. “It’s something that will definitely help me going forward. But right now, we’re just focused on what’s at hand.”
The team faces Argentina in its final group-stage game on Friday (9 a.m. PT, Sportsnet World, WatchESPN), knowing that a win would book Canada a spot in the knockout stages. Despite the South Americans’ superpower status, Carducci has faith in himself and his teammates.
“We’re as confident as we ever were in ourselves,” said Carducci. “We know that it’s going to be a difficult match against Argentina. [But] we knew that going into [the previous two games against] Austria and Iran as well.”
It’s the sort of talk you’d expect from a captain, and Carducci relishes wearing the armband for his country, something he calls “a huge honour,” at the World Cup.
“But at the end of the day for me, it’s just my personality that whether or not I’m wearing the armband, I’ll still go out the same way, playing in a game, still being a leader on and off the pitch,” he said.
Carducci was certainly a leader on the pitch against Iran on Tuesday, as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency member made several big saves in the second half to preserve what could be a vital point for his team.
“I was happy to be able to do my job and make a few good saves to keep it at 1-1, to keep us in the game and to get that result,” Carducci says. “But it came from the entire team. It was a gritty performance.”
Carducci, a native of Calgary, clearly buys into the concept of team camaraderie, which made it all the sweeter when four fellow members of the Whitecaps FC Residency – Marco Bustos, Matthew Chow, Kianz Froese and Jordan Haynes – were also named to Canada’s World Cup roster.
“It’s obviously helped a lot, because we spend so much time with each other at our club,” said Carducci. “That helps us with the chemistry and everything like that.”
Beyond just his core of Whitecaps FC teammates, Carducci says the Canadian players have all formed a tight bond in the time they’ve spent together at the World Cup and in multiple preparatory training camps.
That tight-knit nature helps give the team a characteristic that’s sometimes lacking in Canadian soccer: confidence.
“We know that we can be competitive with any team here,” said Carducci. “We know that every team is going to be a good side, and we know that we’re also a good side, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”