Canada will kick off the 2017 CONCACAF Men's Under-17 Championship with a tough test against Central American winners Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon. The two nations will go head-to-head on Group B's opening day as CONCACAF's 12 remaining nations fight for four berths to the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India later this year.
All of Canada's matches are scheduled to be broadcast live on CONCACAF's Facebook channel (facebook.com/concacafcom), with Saturday’s opener kicking off at 1 p.m. PT. Canada Soccer will provide in-match coverage from Estadio Maracaná Panama via Canada Soccer's digital channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Flickr.
Canada’s roster features Whitecaps FC U-16 Residency defender Jake Ruby (North Vancouver), midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour (Burnaby), and striker José Hernández (Edmonton; pictured above). Also included is Whitecaps FC 2 midfielder/defender Michael Baldisimo (Burnaby).
“We have a good group of players and we have all the belief in the world in them, their quality, and their ability to go out and perform at the highest level,” said Paul Stalteri, Canada Soccer's men's national U-17 team coach. “We have had the group here in Panama this week getting used to the conditions, be it the changing of the weather, the humidity, the heat, and all the different factors. Our focus right now is the first match and all the preparation that goes into that.”
Canada is in a deceptively tough group featuring Costa Rica, Cuba, and Suriname. The four nations will face each other in a round-robin format from April 22-28. After playing three matches each, two nations will advance to the second round while two nations will head home eliminated.
“At any level, the quality in CONCACAF has risen in the last 10 years, so there are no easy games to be played here,” said Stalteri. “We are looking at the entire tournament expecting no easy games or no easy opponents. It will be a tough go in every single match.”
While each nation's ultimate fate will be decided across three matches, each nation also recognizes the importance of kicking off with a strong performance. Of importance at the end of the group phase, the first tie-breaker between two tied nations will be the head-to-head result (greater number of points in matches between the tied teams).
Fans can follow Canada throughout the CONCACAF Men's Under-17 Championship in Panama, with group matches on April 22 (Costa Rica), April 25 (Cuba), and April 28 (Suriname). The 12-nation competition continues through to the championship final on May 7.