Taking the field

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Jaime Peters knows as much or more than any Canadian player on this year's U-20 team about the thrill of performing in front of a lively, soccer-mad crowd.

Unfortunately, prior to this summer, the Pickering native had to go thousands of miles from home to experience the sensation.

A promising young midfielder with Ipswich Town in England, Peters loves coming home to Ontario to visit with family and friends.

All are no doubt impressed with his accomplishments, making it as a professional player at such a young age in soccer-crazed England.

Now his domestic rooting section will get a chance to sample the feeling first-hand when Canada opens the FIFA U-20 World Cup with a July 1 match against Chile.

"The passion in Britain is unbelievable," Peters said recently about regularly playing in front of 25,000 at Ipswich. "It's a great atmosphere.

"Now it's going to be great to play in front of my friends and family and show we can compete against the best in the world."

Peters, who recently turned 20, got a nice taste of the response he and his teammates can expect during Canada's sold out friendly against Argentina at BMO Field in May.

Peters was easily the most electrifying player on the pitch that night as Canada fought the good fight in a 2-1 loss to the defending champions. By the second half, he had the fans roaring every time he neared the ball.

Peters is one of the prospects Canadian coach Dale Mitchell hopes will continue his progress on the senior team he will take over after the U-20 event concludes.

"The good thing is that when they are with European clubs, they are getting training, getting good games," Mitchell said of Peters' development overseas. "When they come back, they are more developed and more mature players."

7 CANADA

JAIME PETERS

Born May 4, 1987 and raised in Pickering, Ont. ... Turned down offers from developmental squads of Manchester United and Chelsea before signing on with Ipswich Town ... Dynamic midfielder played a year of youth soccer in Germany at Kaiserslautern, which played host to some World Cup games in 2006 ... Made his debut with the Canadian national team at age 17 and has played in 13 contests since ... Got a taste of U-20 action as part of the Canadian team in the 2005 event in the Netherlands ... Also played baseball and basketball while growing up east of Toronto ... The 5-foot-7 speedster does his best work down the right flank ...

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In a country where world soccer stars seem to be rolled off an assembly line, Brazilians tried to keep its newest sporty model under wraps.

Unfortunately for the protectionists, the talents of one Alexandre Pato are so sublime that the task was impossible.

He is 17 now, but for more than a year in his earlier teens, the talented phenom had been hailed as the next great Brazilian export. So much so, that his Brazilian club, Internacional, had him train in private so European teams couldn't actively recruit him.

Convinced of his pending superstardom, management wouldn't allow him to play until he signed a multi-year contract complete with a $20 million buyout clause.

Turns out, it was worth the wait.

Less than two minutes into his first professional contest with Inter -- and on his first touch no less -- Pato had scored a goal. Before long, he would become a big part in Inter's triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup this past December. With the secret unveiled, cult status soon followed.

The cult of celebrity has linked him to Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo -- both in his flamboyant on-field play and his purported good looks.

Fresh from his successful debut on the pro scene, Pato was ready to make some noise internationally. He played a lead role in Brazil qualifying for this year's U-20 World Cup, counting five goals as his country led all South American qualifiers.

"He has got the ability and he answers in a positive way every time we ask him to do something new," Inter coach Abel Braga said recently. "But it's not good to put all the pressure on him. We don't want him to have all the responsibility. He's very important, but he's just 17 years old at the moment."

While with Inter, Pato is a boy among men. In Canada, he will appear to be a man among boys.

11 BRAZIL

ALEXANDRE PATO

Born Sept. 2, 1989 ... Real name is Alexandre Rodriques Da Silva. Pato (which translates to "white duck") is the name of the town where he grew up in the southern Brazil state of Parana ... Was first noticed by the youth powerhouse arm of Internacional as a seven-year-old and given his first tryout as a 10-year-old. He has boarded with the team in Porto Alegre -- 500 km from his home town -- since then ... Recent reports suggest that Italy's Inter Milan is willing to pay the $20 million buyout to lure the 5-foot-10 striker. Several teams from the English Premiership have been active suitors as well ... Pato's talents -- and stunning ball-handing skills -- are on display on video clips all over YouTube ... He's been compared to Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo for his on-field play.


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