Canada’s quest to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup begins Monday against a Guadeloupe side that is a bit of a mystery.
“It’s hard to get information about them,” Canadian head coach Valerio Gazzola told reporters in a conference call.
Instead, Gazzola’s staff has had to rely on scouting reports from teams that have recently faced the tiny Caribbean nation, as well as past Canadian results against the French protectorate.
“Just recently, our Under-17 team played their Under-18 team and we beat them 1-0,” he said. “We know in the past they’ve been a very strong team, a very creative team.”
Gazzola acknowledged that there is very little room for error against Guadeloupe, given the format of the tournament allows for the top two from each group of three – Costa Rica are the other team in Group C – to advance to the quarterfinal.
Despite that, he said that his side is ready for whatever Guadeloupe throws at them.
“In our preparation, we’ve adapted to be aware of the one or two or three different formations that we might possibly be playing against,” he said.
[inline_node:317993]Leading the way for the Canadians are MLS players Russell Teibert, Doneil Henry and Matt Stinson.
Teibert, who had glowing reviews in his MLS debut for the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend against Toronto FC, is a two-time former Canadian U-17 player of the year, and will be looked upon to provide an offensive spark from the midfield.
TFC players Henry and Stinson have yet to crack the starting lineup for their club, but are stalwarts at the U-20 level.
The Canadian side will also boast five European-based players, plus another four from clubs in Uruguay. Three more play university soccer in the US, while the rest come from the academies of domestic professional clubs.
Canada will be missing some key players, however. Ashtone Morgan, a former TFC Academy left back who signed with Toronto’s first team in the offseason, was recalled by Aron Winter over the weekend and will remain with the MLS club due to the red-card suspension of starter Mikael Yourassowsky.
Jaineil Hoilett, younger brother of Blackburn Rovers starlet David Hoilett, was not allowed by German club FSV Mainz 05 to join Canada for the tournament. Two other probable starters – goalkeeper Roberto Stillo of Genoa and TFC’s Nicholas Lindsay – will miss the competition due to injury.
Canada take on Guadeloupe on Monday, and finish the group stage against Costa Rica on Friday.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Julien Latendresse Lévesque (FC Energie Cottbus, Germany), Jordan Santiago (Cardiff City, Wales)
DEFENDERS (6): Tristan Grant (Club Nacional, Uruguay), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Derrick Bassi (Vancouver Whitecaps Residency), Andres Fresenga (Racing Club de Montevideo, Uruguay), Roger Thompson (University of Cincinnati), Francesco Augustin (Académie Impact Montréal)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Ben Fisk (Vancouver Whitecaps Residency), Matt Stinson (Toronto FC), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Ethan Gage (Reading, England), Jonathan Osorio (Club Nacional), John Pegg (San Diego State University)
FORWARDS (6): Stefan Cebara (Zalaegerszegi TE, Hungary), Justin Maheu (Fortuna Düsseldorf, Germany), Coulton Jackson (Vancouver Whitecaps Residency), Massimo Mirabelli (SC Toronto), Lucas Cavallani (Club Nacional), Jordan Ongaro (San Diego State University)