Ridley's World Cup mission

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Curtis Ridley's agenda is stocked with soccer.

First, there's his role at St. Francis Xavier high school where he plays with the academy team in the Edmonton Metro League.

Then there's duties with the local Juventus under-18 squad and the Victoria club in the Alberta Major circuit.

But even with kicking around all those responsibilities, Ridley has a primary concern with the Canadian national under-17 program.

"We want to make some history and qualify for the World Cup. It would be so big if we make it. Making the World Cup at 17 would be unbelievable," said Ridley, who departs today for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before the Canucks head into next week's CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Mexico.

This is the third time that Sean Fleming, who heads up the CSA national training centre in Edmonton, will travel with the U-17 squad.

In 1994, the team made it through the first round of the championship, but in 2003 on home soil, the Canadians failed to get out of their group on goal-difference.

It won't be an easy test facing Haiti, Honduras and Mexico with the winner joining the U.S. in a direct pass to the FIFA worlds in Peru come September.

Playing into Canada's favour will be the experience garnered from a series of friendlies and training camps leading up to the last qualifying stage.

"Players like Curtis have shown great progress because they've been able to play in 10 internationals in the last year and a bit," said Fleming.

"Those are absolutely huge. I've got a good feeling about how this team has come together. They have that going for them as well as the intangible Canadian quality of wanting to fight together as a team."

While the flat-out skills may still lag behind other nations, few teams, figured Ridley, will have the same will to win as the Canadians. "Most of all, we have heart," said Ridley.

FREE KICKS: Local products Simon Kassaye and Asmir Begovic will lead Team Canada into its final tune-ups for the FIFA World Youth Championship beginning June 12 in Holland.

Canada faces Honduras in New Orleans on Friday and then the Americans in Blaine, Minnesota, next Wednesday ... Tickets for the Canada-Germany women's game Sept. 4 at Commonwealth are now on sale through Ticketmaster.


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