The time for scoreboard watching is almost over. Some results have gone well for prospective third place finishers in Group E but many others have not been kind. As the situation now stands Canada could reach the Round of 16 with a couple different scenarios unfolding but in all of them the young Canucks have to at least come away with Friday's match against Argentina with a point. Defeat would guarantee an early trip home.
If Canada are forced to settle for a draw against Argentina they would need one of two things to happen in the other three games on Friday. The first option is that Canada pick up a single point while Mexico lose to Sweden and Iraq does worse than a 5 goal win against Nigeria in Group F. That would allow Canada to advance as the fourth best of the third place teams but would assure them of a tough draw in the Round of 16 with either Japan or Brazil waiting.
The second scenario that could see Canada advance with a draw is that the other match in Group E also ends in a draw, which would be true to form for the group thus far, and sees Iran score the same number of goals as Canada or less. That would allow Canada to claim second place in the group with just three points thanks to having a better total number of goals scored than Iran over the course of the three matches.
In both scenarios that is a lot of relying on other teams for help which is not something that Canada should be looking to do. So, even though the math could possibly work out for them, the only way they should be looking at their match against Argentina is as if it is a must win game. If they can get the full three points it would see them go top of the group unless Iran win by a bigger margin and move ahead on goal difference. A win and Canada are in though and that should be the goal.
If Canada can win the group they would get Tunisia in the Round of 16. A second place finish would see them meet the winner of Group F which could be Nigeria, Sweden, or even Mexico depending on the results in that group on Friday morning. There certainly are no easy draws among the group but all three would be slightly more manageable than either Brazil or Japan who both topped their groups with the full 9 points.
So what about Canada's opposition on Friday? Argentina will not be pleased with their performances so far in this tournament having settled for a draw against Iran in the opening match before just managing to escape with a 3-2 win over Austria. The concern for Argentina more than the results will be the way that their team has played and the rate at which they have allowed the opposition to create chances.
If either Iran or Austria had been clinical with the chances that came their way they could very well have come away with the full three points against Argentina. They were both very open games with teams trading chances at a rapid rate and plenty of room being left in the middle of the park for teams to exploit on the counter.
Argentina certainly created chances of their own in the first two games but were quite sloppy in the final third which meant that most of those chances came to nothing. Of the three goals that they did score against Austria two of them were all but gift wrapped by the European squad. The first Argentine goal came off a simple cross that was headed home by the only Argentine player in the box as all four Austrian defenders failed to pick him up. The second came off a brutal bit of work by the Austrian keeper who saw a simple shot go off his palms and between his legs.
The Argentines did score a nice goal for the winner as Leonardo Suarez showed some good skill to get round the defenders after collecting a long ball and eventually his shot was lofted in over the keeper even if it got some help in the form of a slight deflection from the defender. Suarez was the Argentines most dangerous player on the day despite only entering the match in the 69th minute as a substitute. He scored the winner and also hit the post with an early effort and may just have done enough to earn a start against Canada.
Canada will also have to be alert for the attacking skill of Sebastian Driussi who has been the focal point of the Argentine attack in both matches. He found the back against Iran and looked lively against Austria despite squandering a number of half chances. Druissi was also his countries top scorer in qualification as his five goals helped them reclaim the South American Under-17 Championship.
In that qualification process Argentina started off with two straight loses before they got on track. They won their next two matches to sneak out of the first stage of qualification but they did very little to convince as it took a nervy 3-2 win over Colombia to keep their qualification hopes alive. In the second stage they looked better but still far from dominant as a very balance six-team group saw the top three teams all finishing with 9 points and fourth coming in with 8. Argentina won the group despite having 2 wins and 3 draws in the five matches since their +4 goal difference was better than that of Brazil or Venezuela. With draws against the other thee teams that qualified from South America for the World Cup they barely managed to win the Championship and never really looked convincing.
Now Argentina are looking to win the Under 17 World Cup for the first time in their country's history. It is the one prize that is missing from their collection on the men's side and it is clearly their objective for this event. Their coach has been quite clear about the fact that the aim of his time is to at least reach the final of this event but through two games they have not looked like the kind of team that could go all the way in this event.
Canada are also searching for their first title in this event but more realistically they are also searching for their first win and first trip to the knockout rounds. It would look like a huge upset on paper if Canada can come away with a win over Argentina but based on how Group E has gone thus far there should be no reason for Canada to go into this match expecting to come away with anything less than a win. Having seen both Iran and Austria go toe-to-toe with the South Americans should be all the motivation that Canada needs to go out and try to win on Friday.
To win Canada will have to be more effective with their chances than they were against either Iran or Austria. If Argentina continue to play an open game there will be opportunities for the likes of Jordan Hamilton, Andrew Gordon, Hanson Boakai, or Marco Bustos to cause problems on the counter attack.
The chances will be there for Canada. It will come down to making them count early and keeping the pressure on the Argentines who could well already be thinking about the Round of 16 and looking past Canada as their place in the knockout round is now mathematically assured thanks to already having 4 points.
There is a lot of work to be done for Canada and it will probably take some big individual performances to get the job done but as long as Fleming's side go out and give it their all to try and play with the Argentines and win this game then at the very least they can leave this World Cup proud of what they achieved. Hopefully, they won't be coming home just yet though.