Canada is turning the page in 2013.
The national team squad that will be facing Denmark in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday (LIVE STREAM on KICKTV in the USA and Sportsnet.ca in Canada) is a radically different Canadian side than the one that last played this past October in an 8-1 World Cup qualifying debacle. That closed the books on Canada’s hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, and quite possibly on an era of players who never really lived up to their potential.
A very young team has been training in Scottsdale, Ariz., seizing the opportunity to build for the future with many European-based senior players remaining with their clubs for the non-FIFA fixture date.
The average age of the squad is just younger than 25 years old, which makes it the youngest Canadian squad in seven years. A total of 10 members of the 22-man squad received their first national team call-up.
It’s a similar story for the Danes, as they’ve brought a squad made up entirely of players based in their home league as the Danish Superliga is still on winter hiatus.
This match will mark only the third all-time meeting between the two nations with Canada still looking for their first goal against Denmark.
The first meeting came in 1989 with Denmark shutting out Canada 2-0 in Aalborg on a goal by Lars Elstrup and a Canadian own goal. Nine members of that Danish squad then went on to triumph in the 1992 European Championship. The second meeting took place in Toronto under the roof at the Skydome (now Rogers Centre) in 1995 with the Danes pulling off a 1-0 win.
Canada team outlook
Interim head coach Colin Miller has led his young group through spirited practice sessions in Scottsdale which have left some players managing injury knocks: Goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld needed treatment from a local chiropractor for minor back discomfort, Frank Jonke missed Thursday’s training session with an ankle issue and Tosaint Ricketts and Andres Fresenga have also nursed minor injuries.
The team will head to Houston after Saturday's match for its second and final game of the January camp against the USA at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Denmark team outlook
Head coach Morten Olsen has flown in a large, 32-man squad consisting of Danish Superliga players and a group of Under-21 up-and-comers with the goal of giving playing time to both groups.
Ranked No. 23 in the latest FIFA rankings, Denmark play Canada in Tucson before heading north to Phoenix to take on Mexico the following Wednesday, Jan. 30. The under-21 group will also see action against Real Salt Lake.
Big names like Nicklas Bendtner and Daniel Agger are expected to be called up for their Feb. 6 friendly against Macedonia in Skopje as the country looks to dig itself out of a World Cup qualifying hole with just two points from three matches.
Players to Watch:
Canada — Dwayne De Rosario: The D.C. United star is back after missing Canada’s last two matches of the ill-fated 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign with a knee injury.
Like his counterpart on the opposition, Dennis Rommedahl, the 34-year-old DeRo is taking on the mantle of mentor to some of the younger players in camp, as was evident in the practice scrimmages.
Denmark — Dennis Rommedahl: In a squad made up largely of the next generation of “Danish Dynamite,” Rommedahl’s name is the most prominent in the group.
The 34-year-old, who has 121 caps and 21 goals for Denmark, has featured for European clubs like PSV Eindhoven, Olympiakos and Charlton Athletic. Rommedahl will likely be called upon to provide on-field leadership.
GOALKEEPERS (4): David Jensen (FC Nordsjaelland), Frederick Ronnow (AC Horsens), Jesper Hansen (FC Nordsjaelland), Steffen Rasmussen (AGF)
DEFENDERS (12): Bashkim Kadrii (OB), Daniel Hoegh (OB), Daniel Pedersen (Silkeborg IF), Henrik Dalsgaard (AaB), Jens Jonsson (AGF), Jonas Knudsen (Esbjerg fB), Jores Okore (FC Nordsjaelland), Kasper Larsen (OB), Kris Stadsgaard (FC Copenhagen), Lars Jacobsen (FC Copenhagen), Mark Gundelach (FC Nordsjaelland), Mikkel Kirkeskov (AGF).
MIDFIELDERS (6): Casper Sloth (AGF), Kasper Driver (AaB), Kasper Lorentzen (FC Nordsjaelland), Mads Albaek (FC Midtjylland), Mathias Gehrt (Brøndby), Michael Silberbauer (OB),
FORWARDS (10): Anders Christiansen (FC Nordsjaelland), Andreas Cornelius (FC Copenhagen), Dennis Rommedahl (Brøndby), Emil Larsen (OB), Nicklas Helenius (AaB), Nicolai Brock-Madsen (Randers FC), Nicolai Jorgensen (FC Copenhagen), Uffe Bech (FC Nordjaelland), Youssef Toutouh (Esbjerg FC), Yussuf Poulson Yurary (Lyngby BK).
GOALKEEPERS (3): Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga/Norway), Roberto Stillo (Genoa CFC/Italy), Simon Thomas (unattached)
DEFENDERS (6): Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC), Nana Attakora (FC Haka/Finland), Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Mason Trafford (IFK Mariehamn/Finland), Andres Fresenga (Racing Club de Montevideo/Uruguay).
MIDFIELDERS (10): Nik Ledgerwood (Hammarby/Sweden), Philippe Davies (Richmond Kickers), Terry Dunfield (Toronto FC), Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (unattached), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Emmanuel Gomez (Club Atlético Griffa/Argentina), Matt Stinson (Toronto FC), Evan James (unattached).
FORWARDS (3): Tosaint Ricketts (Sandnes Ulf/Norway), Kyle Porter (FC Edmonton), Frank Jonke (FF Jaro/Finland).