Lofty goals for CBC

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

The beautiful game couldn't look any prettier to CBC Sports. Here the public broadcaster is taking the first step in a huge four-year commitment to international soccer. And it gets started with a tournament that has drawn unprecedented interest among Canadians long before the first kickoff. With ticket sales approaching 800,000, the Under-20 men's World Cup is already assured of being the largest single-sport event ever held in this country.

All of which has the CBC primed and ready to deliver blanket coverage of a tournament that will capture the attention of the world.

"It's the start of our soccer journey on CBC," senior producer David Tredgett said. "The fact that it's in Canada ... that's what makes it so special."

All 52 matches in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, from June 30 through the July 22 final at Toronto's BMO Field, will air live: 21 on the main CBC network and 21 on CBC Country Canada, with the remaining 10 sublicensed to GOL TV, a digital soccer channel.

If you're stuck at the office away from a TV, not to worry. Every match is being streamed live on the Internet at cbcsports.ca, another first for a major event of this magnitude broadcast in Canada. They'll be archived for on-demand viewing as well.

How big is this tournament? Craig Forrest, who'll work as a game analyst alongside BBC import Nigel Reed, puts the global-passion level on the same plane Canadians have for the world junior hockey championship.

"I would hope by the time it kicks off, people will understand the size of the tourney and the size of its worldwide appeal," Forrest said of an event FIFA bills as its second largest, after the World Cup itself. "(About) 180-200 countries around the world will pick up the coverage of these games. That's how popular it has become on the global scale."

Naturally, CBC will put extra emphasis on the Canadian team. Tredgett agrees its success -- or lack of it -- can't be underestimated in terms of television audiences.

"They're very directly related," he said. "In 2002, the women's Under-19 (world) tournament was in Canada. When Canada played in the final, that drew what was (at the time) the largest audience ever on Sportsnet (917,000). So the success of the Canadian team can drive ratings up. If they go on a run, there will be a lot more interest in the tournament and in the broadcasts."

Forrest, for one, expects Canada to emerge from its group and play into the second round. "Anything after that is gravy," he said, adding "it would not surprise me if (Canada) got to the semifinals."

He believes the home side will benefit from passionate home country crowds.

"The support at home will be huge," he said. "They will truly be the 12th man, which we've never had in Canada up until now ... it will be a massive part of Canada's success."

Unlike past World Cups, which have largely drawn on British match commentary, CBC plans to put its own stamp on this tournament. Reed, the voice of Serie A soccer on Telelatino, and Forrest will stay with Canada's team until it is eliminated, then be redeployed from there. Steve Armitage and former national team keeper Paul Dolan call the June 30 Brazil-Poland opener in Montreal, then head west for matches in Victoria and Burnaby, B.C. Host broadcast commentators -- familiar British voices John Helm, Gary Bloom, Dave Woods and Steve Banyard -- will handle the rest.

Tredgett calls it "an exciting blend." Home base is a studio at CBC's broadcast centre in Toronto, where host Scott Russell and analysts Bob Lenarduzzi and Dick Howard will be stationed; CBC reporters for the event are Mitch Peacock (Canada/Western games) and Brenda Irving (Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto venues).

QUICK KICKS

A 30-minute U-20 tournament preview show airs June 28 at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBC. While most of the U-20 tournament telecasts will air in standard format, CBC will shoot two quarter-finals (in Toronto and Edmonton), both semifinals, the third-place match and the final in high definition.

Two feature series will run throughout the tourney: Adidas Future Look (20 profiles of Canadian and international stars in the event) and Viva Football, a historical look at the event.

Telelatino is providing coverage of 28 matches (21 live) in Italian, Spanish or Portuguese and Daily reports are also available on Radio-Canada, CBC Newsworld and CBC Radio.


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