Chile on Canada's plate

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

It doesn't have to be pretty, but a win today by Canada over Chile at BMO Field would almost certainly make the home team a favourite to advance out of Group A of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup of Soccer.

The Chileans look to be the Canadians' toughest foe in the four-team grouping that also includes Austria and the Congo.

A loss today won't necessarily send the young Canucks to the sidelines but it would mean they would need wins over both Austria and Congo to advance to the round of 16.

Canadian coach Dale Mitchell said that in one sense it is good that the team will play the highest-ranking team right out of the gate.

"I would put Chile on a level with Argentina and Brazil," he said after last night's final practice. "I think we will need four or five points to get out of our group and, if we can get three against Chile, it would be a huge advantage for us."

Mitchell said that it is always important to start a tournament like the U-20 World Cup with a win to develop momentum, but it becomes doubly important when you are the host country.

"We know the atmosphere at BMO (today) will be electric," he said. "We must take advantage of being at home and the quicker we do that the better it will be for us in the games that follow."

The team appeared loose yesterday and to a man said they were excited rather than nervous about playing in front of a sold-out stadium to start the competition.

Defender/midfielder Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault said the team is "quietly confident" of a good result against Chile.

"We have been preparing for this game for two years," the 18-year-old Montreal native said. "And we all know one another pretty good."

He rejected the suggestion that Canada's lack of international experience hosting a tournament of this size would hurt the team's chances.

"We may be young but we have all played a lot of international games," he said. "Most of us have played on the under-17 team and we have been playing top teams for two years."

Beaulieu-Bourgault said he thinks the expected fan reaction at BMO to the Canadian team will have an adverse effect on all the Chileans.

"(The fans) will be our 12th man, for sure," he said. "We know that we will have to work hard, but we will be energized by the fans."

He said that his own experience playing for FC St. Pauli in the German league brought him into contact with many South American players, so he sort of knows what to expect from Chile.

"We have seen lots of video of them," Beaulieu-Bourgault said. "They play that South American style, always attacking, but I think we will be ready for them."

One factor that surely will help Canada will be a red card suspension to Alexis Sanchez, Chile's top player.

"It may seem like a good break for us," Mitchell said. "But (Chile) is so deep in talent that they will be able to get two or three players of top calibre to replace Sanchez."


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