Canada will have its hands full

GEORGE GROSS

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Team Canada's players are hoping fans at BMO Field provide a "chilly" reception to the opposition tonight.

That said, Team Canada will be in tough in its first FIFA under-20 World Cup match against Chile.

That is the opinion of Jose Couceiro, head coach of Portugal's under-20 team, the Toronto home team in the competition.

Couceiro, a strapping 44-year-old, could still be playing first division in Portugal for one of the four teams he has played with, just as Detroit Red Wings' Chris Chelios can still chase pucks at age 45.

Couceiro didn't mean to play down the talent of the Canadian young men. He merely compared the two teams.

FOOTBALL MENTOR

"The Canadian team has several very good players," said the Portuguese football mentor, who also served as general manager of the Sporting Lisbon and Alverca teams in the past.

"I like best David Edgar and Will Johnson. But Canada has also some other good players.

"Chile is an exceptional team. It is very different from Canada. Chile has a defensive star in Arturo Vidal, who plays top class soccer in Germany. Their best forward is striker Alexis Sanchez, who plays in Italy. The Chileans rely mostly on a 4-4-2 system, but often switch to a 4-3-3, which is the system I favour.

"Chile also occasionally plays a 4-2-3-1 (to confuse the opposition). I saw them play in the South American championship and they are tough."

I met Couceiro at a special banquet arranged for the Portuguese team by Alex Franco, owner-publisher of the local Portuguese newspaper.

Some 800 fans attended the affair sponsored by the Bank of Portugal and Bank of Montreal. Needless to say, the coach, as well as the players, had sore hands from signing autographs on scraps of paper, T-shirts and scarfs by the end of the evening.

Yesterday, Franco organized a tour of Niagara Falls for the Portuguese team, while Canada prepared for today's game. Originally, they were supposed to train at BMO Field.

But on Thursday night, coach Dale Mitchell changed all of that and kept the players in their downtown hotel to meet the press. The problem was that Mitchell didn't notify the press of the changes.

Perhaps by confusing the media, he hoped to confuse the Chileans later today.

It would be appropriate to leave today with a win, or at least a tie on Canada Day with Team Canada's pride unblemished, particularly in view of the fact that the organizers in the six Canadian cities have sold almost one million tickets, even though the sales could have been better in Edmonton.

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