By RON FANFAIR
Canada will be represented at the International Soccer Federation’s (FIFA) Under-17 Boys World Cup for the first time in 16 years.
The national side advanced to this summer’s World Cup in Mexico by shutting out Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 in the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) regional championship in Jamaica.
Christopher Nanco and Keven Aleman’s first-half goals helped Canada secure its fifth World Cup ticket in the biennial global tournament that runs from June18 to July 10.
The Canadians beat Panama 2-1 in the semi-finals before losing to the United States in overtime in the final last Sunday night.
Coach Stephen Fleming attributed Canada’s success to the coaching staff and players.
“I think they are all part of our success,” he said. “We have a good crop of players in this age group, but it is also no secret that our players are in good soccer environments. For a player’s development to be at its best, the player needs to be training in a good environment which may not be the same for all players and there are different circumstances in different places from coast to coast.
“We have to always ask ourselves what is best for all the players. It may not be just one model. There is some great dialogue going on with all parties involved through the Wellness to World Cup working group (the Canadian Soccer Association Long-Term Development Program). When everyone is working together, that helps our success on the international stage.”
Every member of the current team has progressed through the Canadian system with 19 of 20 currently training on national clubs. In addition, 17 of the 20 players have passed through one of Canada’s five national training centres.
Canada demolished Barbados 8-0 and held Honduras to a goalless draw to advance to the quarter-final meeting with Trinidad & Tobago. Canada along with Jamaica, the United States and Panama will represent the region at the World Cup.
The national side lost all three of its matches in its last World Cup appearance in Ecuador in 1995, conceding seven goals while scoring just once.
And, Scarborough-born Jason Bent has been promoted to assistant coach with Toronto FC. He was the club’s senior academy team head coach for the past three years.
“Jason has played a big role in establishing our academy and has proved he’s ready to take the step up,” said Toronto FC’s new head coach and technical director Aron Winter. “Developing our young players is a key part of our philosophy at this club and having Jason working with the first team squad will help us with that. It is also the next step in his development as a coach and we believe he has a bright future ahead of him.”
The 33-year-old Bent, who represented Canada at the Under-17 World Cup in Japan in 1993, moved into coaching after a serious knee injury prematurely ended his playing career. He represented the national senior team 32 times from 1997-2003.
“I want to thank the club for giving me a chance to develop as a coach in the academy,” said the former midfielder who played at the University of Maryland. “Now, my aim is to continue to grow whilst bringing my knowledge and expertise to help the club move further.”