Quietly Canada has called together it's under 17 team and prepared to head over to Italy for the Torneo della Nazioni. The 8 team international tournament is set to take place in Trieste, Italy from April 25th to the 29th. The tournament has a bit of a gruelling format with teams playing in a possible five matches over the five days if they reach the final.
The tournament, which translates to "Tournament of Nations", will consist of a group stage involving two groups of four teams each followed by cross-over semi finals and then the final. Group A will be made up of Croatia, Finland, Mexico and Montenegro and Group B will be Canada, Israel, Slovenia and Italy. It is a good level of opposition for the young Canadian players to be going up against and should provide them with a good bit of international experience.
Prior to the kickoff of the tournament Canadian coach Sean Fleming will have his 18 man roster take part in a training camp. That camp will also take place in Italy with the team training in Verona from the 18th until the 24th when they will move to Trieste to get ready for the run of matches. Canada has also announced that they will be playing a friendly match against the Mexican U17 side in a friendly on the 21st.
For Canada this tournament is just the first step towards trying to get back to the FIFA Under 17 World Cup. Having qualified from the last cycle Canada will now be looking to do so again next April. The CONCACAF qualifiers are scheduled for April 6-19, 2013 when they will take place at the Estadio Rommel Fernández and Estadio Agustin Muquita Sánchez in Panama. A success in Panama would see Canada earn a birth to the 2013 U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. To make it Canada will have to finish top four in that 12 team tournament.The event in Italy will be a very good tune up for Canada and give them a sense of where they stand going into the next qualifying cycle. The friendly against Mexico plus a potential meeting in the knockout rounds will serve as a very good gauge of where Canada stands. The Mexican youth sides remain right at the top of CONCACAF so if Canada is able to give them a good run for their money or even get a positive result it would set them up nicely for next spring.
Canada's group games will all present them with different challenges and should all provide them with good opposition. There are no real slouches in Canada's group so facing Italy, Slovenia, and Isreal will be a very good test for the young players. Those are three nations in Europe's upper ranks most times and that is reflected by the quality of the youth sides.
The squad that Sean Fleming has called up for the camp and the tournament is one with a lot of previous youth international experience. Of the 18 players involved 14 of them have been involved in past national team youth squads. That list includes Toronto FC prospect Jordan Hamilton who was with the U17 squad last World Cup qualifying cycle despite being only 14 at the time.
For the most part Fleming has gone with Canadian based players in his squad with only 3 European based players (Mikaël Cantave, Billy Bitihene, and Kianz Gonzales-Froese) being involved. Among the Canada based players there are 4 Whitecaps residency players, 1 TFC academy player, and 7 other players from Ontario based clubs. The squad also features 3 players who were born in 1997 in Billy Bitihene, Andrew Gordon, and Matteo Restrepo.
Full squad called up is as follows:
GK- Marco Carducci | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
GK- Daniel Milton | CAN / Ajax Thunder
D- Alex Comsia | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
D- Ian Fernandes | CAN / West Rouge SC
D- Jordan Haynes | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
D- Leonardo Kossaka | CAN / AS Sherbrooke Ouest
D- Aron Mkungilwa | CAN / Laser
D- Matteo Restrepo | CAN / Woodbridge SC
M- Billy Bitihene | ITA / Brescia Calcio
M- Marco Bustos | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
M- Mikaël Cantave | FRA / FC Nantes
M- Marco-Leonel Dominguez | CAN / Braves d'Ahuntsic
M- Kianz Gonzales-Froese | FRA / Mainz 05
M- Phillip Makinde | CAN / Brampton Youth
M- Derick Sequeira | CAN / Brampton Youth SC
F- Hanson Boakai | CAN / Xtreme FC
F- Andrew Gordon | CAN / North Scarborough SC
F- Jordan Hamilton | CAN / Toronto FC Academy