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Canada's Hanson Boakai on Camp, Coach and Colombia

At just 17 years of age, Hanson Boakai has earned his first call up to the Canadian Men's National Team. But with a massive game against Colombia looming, he is looking to do more than just sit and observe.

Chris Austin-USA TODAY Sports

If a sixteenth, or even an eight seed facing the number one is considered to be a "David versus Goliath" scenario in sports circles, then what is the third seed against number 120? Those are the FIFA rankings of Colombia and Canada respectively heading into Tuesday's friendly at Red Bull Arena. Underdog stories don't get much more compelling than that.

But this camp is about a ton more than just Canada trying to overcome outlandish odds to beat Colombia and significantly improve their place in the World Rankings. It is also about getting a live glimpse of one of the World's top sides, specifically for the younger players. At this camp especially, there are a lot.

Quillan Roberts, Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, Doneil Henry, Luca Gasparotto, Manuel Aparicio, Dylan Carreiro, Hanson Boakai, Jordan Hamilton and Cyle Larin will all likely be key players for the U23 team that will attempt to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. They also represent the future of Canadian soccer, which Boakai says is very bright.

"[All of these player] are going in the right direction, same as me," explains the FC Edmonton midfielder. "It's really good because all of us want to be the future of Canada and want to help Canada [succeed]"

At just 17 years of age, he turns 18 later this month, this is Boakai's first call up to the Canadian National Team. He has previously represented Canada at the U-15, U-17 and U-20 level. But this has been the year when he began to turn heads in Edmonton and around the country.

It was the Voyageurs Cup that truly started putting his name in the headlines, a tournament that he dominated. Boakai had a goal and a pair of assists in home victory in the preliminary round that sent Edmonton to the semis against Montreal. In a heartbreaking and controversial 5-4 loss on aggregate to the Impact, he was equally dominant, adding two more assists.

All of this had people clamoring to anoint him as the next star of Canada's embattled soccer program, at a time when there weren't too many positives. The Edmonton Journal even published an article that suggested Boakai could develop into a "Canadian Messi". He considers the nickname to be high praise.

"It's really huge because Messi is the greatest player ever," he says. "It makes me want to work harder to get even close to that level."

That work is already well underway for Boakai, as he tries to learn as much as he can from his first national team camp leading up to match against a world class opponent. He explains that even watching the game will help him learn a lot of things about himself and the national team.

But if at all possible, he intends to get some time on the field and is learning everything he possibly can from his coach in order to make that a reality.

"Benito Floro has brought in a different style to my game," Boakai says of his coach. "He told me I'm a good player I just need to work tactically. That's what I'm trying to work on. Every day in training he teaches me how to be a tactical player."

It is not just the manager that has been impressing Boakai since he joined the camp, it is the mentality and professionalism of his teammates that also inspires him.

"All of these guys are here for Canada," he says. "They don't take it as a joke, they know they are playing for their country. Their country depends on them. We're here to try to win the game."

While he's in agreement that winning is the overall goal of the camp, Boakai also has a couple of personal goals that are motivating him.

"My personal goal is to impress the coach and make him have to call me next camp," he explains. "[Also] to get playing time in this game. Because it's a really big game for Canada and taking part in it would be really good for me."

The match kicks off at 9:15 on Tuesday night in Harrison, New Jersey. It will be Canada's biggest test in the Benito Floro era.