With a favorable draw ahead for February’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Canadian head coach Nick Dasovic expects nothing less than to see his team win their group.
Speaking from Sunrise, Fla., where he currently has the squad assembled for a camp, Dasovic said he has high hopes for his team, which opens Group B play against Cuba on Feb. 18 before finishing group play against Nicaragua on Feb. 22.
“We expect to win that group,” Dasovic told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday shortly after the draw. “We have to. We have to believe in ourselves and then after that, the Group A team — that’s the toughest group of the four groups.”
Four of the 12 teams in the tournament will book a ticket to the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. Canada haven't played in a U-20 World Cup since they failed to score a goal while crashing out of the group stage in the 2007 tournament that took place in Canada.
Two years ago, Canada finished second in Group C and were knocked out by Mexico in the quarterfinals. As hosts this time around and featuring a roster laden with players who won the 2011 U-17 World Cup, Mexico would be a pretty strong favorite to win the tournament.
If Canada are able to make it out of their group, they would face either the US, Costa Rica, or Haiti. While Canada dodge the bullet by avoiding the prospect of facing the host Mexicans in the decisive game for their World Cup aspirations, any one of the teams they could face will come from what Dasovic considers to be the strongest group in the tournament.
“If you look at the history you’d have to say the US are favorites to win the group," he said. "Haiti are no slouches — there’s a lot of word coming out from people I know that think very highly of Haiti. So any one of those teams really could finish first so that’s why I would definitely see that it would probably be the toughest group of all of them.”
Prior to Wednesday’s draw, Canada had scheduled a friendly in Costa Rica for next week, which now becomes a possible preview for a U-20 quarterfinal in February when a spot in the World Cup would be on the line.