Canada will make its sixth appearance in the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-17 World Cup later this year.
The national youth team qualified for the global series by finishing in the top four in the recently concluded Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Soccer Federation (CONCACAF) regional competition in Panama City.
Canada drew 1-1 with Costa Rica and shut out Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 to secure a quarter-final meeting with Jamaica that ended in a 4-2 decision for the national team. After losing 2-1 to host country Panama in the semi-finals, the Canadians bounced back to defeat Honduras 4-2 on penalty kicks after the two teams were tied 2-2 in the third-place contest.
Canada scored two minutes before the end of extra-time to send the game into a penalty shootout.
“Undoubtedly, that performance today showed a great amount of character from the boys,” said coach Sean Fleming. “To come from behind twice at two crucial moments in the game speaks volumes about the self-belief in this team. I have now told the players it is up to them to do everything they can to ensure that we are prepared for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.”
The players are back with their respective clubs before reassembling later in the year for the 15th biennial World Cup in the United Arab Emirates from October 17 to November 8.
Canada performed poorly in its previous five outings at home in 1987, in Scotland two years later, Japan in 1993, Ecuador in 1995 and Mexico two years ago. In 15 matches, the Canadians have scored just five goals while conceding 45. The national side has been shut out in 11 of the matches.
The other qualifiers so far for the 24-team tournament are Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the host country, United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, nine players were kicked out of the African Under-17 championship in Morocco after wrist scans showed them to be over the age limit. They included three players each from Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was used to scan the wrist plate of players to accurately ascertain their real age since birth certificates are often either inaccurate or unavailable.
FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, began researching the use of MRI technology a decade ago, but only started to conduct tests at the youth World Cup in Nigeria in 2009. Results from Under-17 World Cups in 2003, 2005 and 2007 revealed that up to 35 per cent of players were over-age.
Meanwhile, Rwanda has terminated Coach Milutin Sredojevic’s contract because of poor results. Rwanda is at the bottom of its group in the 2014 World Cup qualifying competition.
The sacked coach said he was happy to have been given an opportunity to coach the sovereign state located in central and east Africa.
“I think their soccer standards will keep growing with time,” said Sredojevic. “I am going to take a rest as I scout around for the next move.”
Arriving in Africa in 2001 to coach Ugandan club SC Villa, the Serbian also had spells in Ethiopia, South Africa and Sudan before replacing Ghanaian, Sellas Tetteh, as Rwanda’s coach in November 2011.