Canada’s under-17 team has been drawn into Group E alongside Austria, Iran and Argentina for October’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Back for their second straight tournament under head coach Sean Fleming, the young Canadians will likely have to win one their first two games if they have any hope of advancing to the round of 16 for the first time.
The Canadians open against Austria on Oct. 19. In the Austrians, Canada will be up against one of the weaker teams from the six-team UEFA contingent. In an eight-team qualifying tournament that took place in May, Austria actually qualified after finishing third in a group with Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Second up for Canada is Iran on Oct. 22. Iran won their group in a qualifying tournament that took place last September and thumped Australia 5-1 in the quarterfinals to book their ticket, so there appears to be some good potential in the side. Ultimately going down in the semifinals of that competition to Uzbekistan, Iran scored 16 times in five games. Given that Canada’s strength is its defense, it’s likely to receive a strong test, but in the same token, Iran conceded seven times in five games so this could be a game with quite a few goals.
While there are certainly points to be had in the first two games for Canada, it will be very difficult to get anything off Argentina, the reigning U-17 South American champions. Despite their noted pedigree at the older levels, Argentina has never won an U-17 World Cup but have finished third three times. Argentina became the best of their region after coming second in their qualifying group and then had the best goal difference to break a three-way tie for first place as the South American champions were decided in a league format rather than a knockout round.
All three of the Canada’s group stage games will take place at the Al-Rashid Stadium in Dubai, as the team looks to improve on the 2011 tournament in which they picked up a 2-2 tie against England and a scoreless draw with Rwanda to record their first two points at an U-17 World Cup.
Canada qualified for the World Cup thanks to a third place finish at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama in March.
Here are all of the groups for the upcoming U-17 World Cup:
United Arab Emirates