Canadians get luck of the draw

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

TORONTO -- The Canadian team, hoping to do its country proud this July, has a nice soccer smorgasbord from which to dine.

As the host nation in the Under-20 World Cup, the Canadians were given a break yesterday and, as a designated top seed in Group A, avoid tournament powerhouses early on.

"We don't have any of the traditional big boys such as Brazil, Argentina and Spain," Canadian coach Dale Mitchell said after the draw in Toronto yesterday. "But it won't be easy.

"I do think we have three difficult opponents though because they have three different styles and they come from three different federations."

First up in Toronto July 1 will be Chile which, no doubt, will bring some of their South American flair and technical expertise to BMO Field.

The next Group E opponent -- July 5 in Edmonton -- will be Austria. While not yet a recognized world power, the Austrians did advance through a tough European qualifier in which Italy, England, Germany and France all were denied a spot.

The Canadians finish their preliminary round in Edmonton July 8 against Congo.

For that contest, they'll be up against the scrappy play that has defined African squads in recent years.

While acknowledging there isn't a soft spot in the bunch, Mitchell hopes his players respond to the challenge and the home crowd.

"I look at it like we're hosting. If we don't get out of our group, we'll be disappointed," Mitchell said. "And that's the message we will pass on to our players.

"We have to find some way to take advantage of being the host team. We had a great example from Germany in the 2006 men's World Cup, the way the country got behind them right from the start."

Torontonian Andrea Lombardo, who will be making his second appearance on the Canadian side in this tournament, sees it as the ultimate selling stage for the game.

"This can really be a spark for a lot of Canadians and not just in Toronto," said Lombardo, a forward.


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