Gotta love the Congo

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Oh, oh. There's no free space on Canada's FIFA U-20 World Cup bingo card.

Congo has bingo, bango, bongo.

All of a sudden, after what we watched last night, Canada has to be a little more worried than they were yesterday.

Which, after their gong show against Chile, was a lot.

It would have been nice for Canada to discover that the African champions were in some way unworthy. But that's not what happened as the only team which will play all three games in group play here came from behind to score a 1-1 draw with Austria in a terrific tilt to open the tournament in the big stadium last night.

So delightful were the Congolese that if it works out that Canada doesn't do it, adoption papers were more or less filed on their behalf.

FELL IN LOVE

Edmonton fans fell in love with the African champions who were the great unknown of 'Group A' play and largely unscouted by Canada prior to the tournament because they'd get two in-tournament looks at them before their match here Sunday.

That they might be the weak team in the mix might have been the hope. But, nope.

The colourful club with the garish green shirts, yellow pants, red socks with plenty of flash and dash and no lack of touch or talent, is going to be a test.

Not all of the 19,899 fans who purchased tickets, many of them nine-game tournament packages, decided to go to the one-off game in a first-round of double headers, probably because Congo vs. Austria didn't look like it would have much sizzle.

But Congo supplies the sizzle and just made the odds of Canada getting through the first round look much more difficult.

You should know that in the 18 editions of the FIFA World Cup, never has the host nation failed to get out of group play. You should also know that in only five instalments of the FIFA U-20 World Cup has the host nation failed to reach the knockout stages. And you should also know that in the last four U-20s, the last four all managed to get through.

In there somewhere is where we go from here.

"When you get to a world championship in anything, you can't have anything other than your best," said Canadian coach Dale Mitchell as he scouted out the two teams Canada plays next in the event.

"We weren't close to our best," he said of getting gonged 3-0 by Chile on Canada Day in Toronto in a game in which they failed to get a shot on goal until the 66th minute.

MAKING A POINT

Mitchell wasn't sure what to think of the result last night. With each team getting one point in the standings instead of three, maybe that's a good thing.

"I guess it's good. But we've got to go out and do our own job.

"There's still six points on the table. We'll do everything we're capable of to get them."

While Canada did manage to get out of group play four years ago with one win and two losses, most times it takes a win and a draw in a 24-team tournament.

Mitchell was probably happy that neither Congo or Austria looked to be of the calibre of the Chileans.

"I believe we match up a little bit better against the two teams that we are going to play. Chile caused some real problems because of the quality of the players and the game they play," he said of the mismatch in talent and inability to play against Chile's 3-4-3 setup.

Chile is South America. Canada is now 0-7 against South American teams in the U-20 World Cup and have been outscored 15-1.

Chile had a 20-3 margin in shots "at" goal and a 9-1, er, edge in shots "on" goal.

The Austrians, who are up next for Mitchell's men here Thursday, look very similar to Canada if you can ignore striker Erwin Hoffer, which you can't. They are perhaps more organized than Congo but can't compare when it comes to flair.

"It's hard to compare the two teams because of their styles," said Mitchell.

But right now, the team that concerns Mitchell most isn't Austria or the Congo, it's Canada.

"That's true. We need to play better ourselves."


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