By RON FANFAIR
The Canadian men’s soccer team resumes its World Cup campaign tomorrow in St. Lucia.
The national side defeated the Eastern Caribbean Island 4-1 in their first leg match which was played last month at BMO Field.
Toronto FC left back, Ashtone Morgan, is one of two new players included in the national line-up. He made his professional debut for Toronto FC a year ago in a Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) Champions League contest against Panamanian side Arabe Unido.
“Ashtone has been playing consistently and playing quite well,” said Coach Stephen Hart. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for him to come in.”
The other new face is 19-year-old midfielder Joseph Di Chiara who is making his first appearance for Canada at any level. He plays professionally in the Russian Premier League for FC Krylia Sovetov Samara.
“We were informed about him a while back,” said Hart. “We managed to take a look at some video material. He has looked comfortable on the ball and has a good work rate, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at him.”
Morgan and Di Chiara are among six changes to the Canadian roster from last month’s qualifiers against St. Lucia and Puerto Rico.
Forward Olivier Occean and centre back Adam Straith return to the squad after a seven-game absence stretching back to last January’s friendly international in Greece and full-back Nik Ledgerwood rejoins the side after missing out on the first two World Cup qualifiers due to injury.
Goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos is also back in the side after a two-year hiatus. He comes in for Milan Borjan who is nursing a minor injury.
Following tomorrow’s match at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia, Canada returns home to meet Puerto Rico on Tuesday night at BMO Field. Kick-off is 7 p.m.
The national side shut out Puerto Rico 3-0 on the road last month.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has indicated it will bid for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations championship after missing out on hosting the 2013 event to be played in South Africa.
Nigeria hosted the tournament alone in 1980 and partnered with Ghana 11 years ago to stage the event.
“We want Nigeria to host because we are capable,” said the country’s soccer association president Aminu Maigari. “We did it before and we want to do it better next time around.”
South Africa and Libya swapped hosting the 2013 tournament with the Libyans taking on the 2017 event.