Will it be club, or country?

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

They didn't actually tell him to turn his back on Canada.

But Julian de Guzman got the message.

"They never really told me outright. But you could feel it. You could see it on their faces," said the 24-year-old Ontario native from Santander, Spain, where he's preparing for Canada's weekend friendly against the Spanish national team.

"I had situations with (former club) Marseilles where I left for the national team, came back and ended up on the bench for the longest time. That was the first time I realized ... it would have been better to stay."

De Guzman, who started his pro career with Marseilles in 1999 and spent three years in Germany before joining Spain's Deportivo La Coruna this summer, is one of many Canadians who has been forced to choose between club and country.

He missed this summer's Gold Cup because it clashed with the start of pre-season at his new club -- where he was eager to make a good impression.

But he wasn't the only absentee. Tomasz Radzinski and Paul Stalteri also decided to stay with their teams in England.

And with most of coach Frank Yallop's squad dotted throughout Europe, the picture isn't much brighter for Saturday's game against Spain.

FEARED STRIKE FORCE

Kenny Stamatopoulos is expected to start just his second game for Canada against one of Europe's most feared strike forces. First-choice 'keeper Greg Sutton and former No. 1 Lars Hirschfeld both stayed with their clubs.

"I want guys who are totally committed, but I totally understand where they are coming from," said Yallop of the club vs. country problem.

"It's maybe not so bad at the moment ... but it's always an issue. The players get a lot of pressure from the clubs."

De Guzman said that as a proud Canadian, he finds it frustrating that he has been forced to miss out on joining up with the squad.

And while some fans may criticize certain players for skipping games, de Guzman said his teammates know the score.

"Everybody has the same dilemma," he said. "It's gotten better compared to how it was in the past -- the timing (of games) is way better now for overseas players.

"But (missing games) -- it's pretty sad. It's your country and everything. It's every player's dream to represent your national team, but it's tough."

De Guzman said his current club -- and his former clubs in Germany -- has been supportive of him playing for Canada.

And despite the disappointment surrounding Canada's failure to climb up the FIFA rankings -- they've been in the mid-80s for years -- De Guzman thinks the team has a bright future.

"I always look forward to playing for Canada. I feel the team's getting better and better.

"The next couple of years -- it's going to be something really special."

COULD BE CLOSE GAME

That might not extend to Saturday's result against Raul and friends, but De Guzman isn't ruling out the possibility of a close game.

"Our chances are going to be slim, but I'm going to give it all I've got. Even a tie would be something big for us."

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Much will depend on the weather, but organizers are expecting crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 for Sunday's women's international between Canada and Germany at Commonwealth. See Sun Sports for full pre- and post-game coverage.


Videos

Photos