The FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates is less than 2 months away. The Canadian team has been busy preparing with a recent camp but now they have a more clear picture of what they will be up against when the tournament opens on October 17th.
On Monday afternoon in Abu Dhabi the official tournament draw took place with Canada being represented by Vancouver Whitecaps Residency goalkeeper Marco Carducci and U-17 Head Coach Sean Fleming. Canada should be quite happy with their draw as they avoided being placed in anything that could be called a group of death and will now be in position to claim their first ever win at this level.
Canada was drawn into Group E along with Austria, Iran, and Argentina. They will open their tournament against Austria on October 19th in Dubai. That match will be followed by games against Iran on the 22nd and Argentina on the 25th with with the entire group being contested at Al-Rashid Stadium in Dubai.
It should be a good test for Canada with none of their opponents being slouches. The good news for Canada is that their toughest game of the group stage will likely be against Argentina and that will be on the final day of play. If Canada can find a way to pick up their first win at this event they could very well come into that final match with a chance of moving on from the group stage.
The complete groups for the event are as follows:
Group A: United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Brazil, Slovakia
Group B: Uruguay, New Zealand, Ivory Coast, Italy
Group C: Croatia, Morocco, Panama, Uzbekistan
Group D: Tunisia, Venezuela, Russia, Japan
Group E: Canada, Austria, Iran, Argentina
Group F: Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, Sweden
There is not clear group of death in the bunch thanks to all of the regional champions being assigned to different groups but there are certainly some potentially interesting match-ups along the way. On paper all four of the teams from CONCACAF should be happy with their draw as they should all be in a position to do well. There is a good chance that the region to once again turn some heads with a strong performance in this event with Mexico looking to repeat as Champions and the other three teams in position to potentially make it past the group stages.
With the draw now out of the way Canada's focus will shift back to getting ready for the event. With less than 2 months to go before their first game the squad will need to make the most of the limited time they have together to make sure they are ready to hit the ground running when they take on Austria.
Having finished third in the CONCACAF Championships back in the spring Canada will have some work to do if they want to stand a chance of getting beyond the group stage this fall but it is expected that Sean Fleming will name a similar squad to the one that helped Canada qualify for the World Cup. Hopefully, any changes that he does make will help to push Canada over the top to help solidify the squad.
Canada is expected to bring a lot of attacking talent to Dubai this fall so there is a good chance that they will be able to compete with any of the teams in their group in terms of scoring but they will need to do better at controlling the flow of the game if they want to stand a chance of grabbing that first ever win.