Four & out

Canada boys in Danone Na­tions Cup con­so­la­tion round

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Derek VAN DIEST

SALOU, Spain — Canada was al­ways go­ing to be un­der­dogs at the Danone Na­tions Cup, but on the open­ing day of the big­gest youth soc­cer tour­na­ment in the world, proved it did have some bite.

The Cana­dian boys team fin­ished fourth in its fiveteam group af­ter post­ing a pair of draws and two losses in four games on Thurs­day.

Canada opened the event with a score­less tie against Eng­land in the one-half, 20-minute for­mat, be­fore los­ing 4-1 to France and 3-2 to Hun­gary. Canada fin­ished the round-robin por­tion of the tour­na­ment with a 1-1 tie against Tu­nisia and will play in the con­so­la­tion pool of its 20-team tour­na­ment on Fri­day.

“This is my first ex­pe­ri­ence here and this setup is fan­tas­tic, the en­ergy and the cul­ture here is fan­tas­tic,” said Canada head coach Pat Rai­mondo. “It’s not re­ally a fair fight for our boys, we’re play­ing teams that have been train­ing all year to­gether. We’ve had five prac­tices they’ve had about 300.

“But on the field, the boys gave it their all and that’s all we can ask from them.”

Canada’s Danone Cup boys and girls teams were se­lected af­ter a se­ries of camps at the pro­vin­cial and na­tional level.

This year’s Danone Na­tions Cup fea­tures 56 teams from 27 coun­tries com­pet­ing in two sep­a­rate tour­na­ments, fea­tur­ing qual­i­fied teams from 2018 and 2019 to cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of the event. The 2019 tour­na­ment is for 10-12 year olds, while the 2018 tour­na­ment fea­tures play­ers aged 11-13.

Canada is play­ing in the 2018 tour­na­ment with the team hav­ing been cho­sen last year af­ter be­ing whit­tled down from 5,000 play­ers na­tion­wide.

“We didn’t win a match, but we still qual­i­fied to play in the sec­ond di­vi­sion and it’s been a lot of fun to be here,” said Canada for­ward Luca Do­man­ico, of Ot­tawa. “We had a re­ally tough group. We had teams like France in it, who are re­ally, re­ally good, but we still fought hard and we played re­ally hard. We were still able to score a few goals and we were able to get into the sec­ond group.”

Canada will play an­other round robin Fri­day look­ing to finish as high as ninth in the tour­na­ment. They will be grouped with Tu­nisia, Nether­lands, Ro­ma­nia, In­done­sia, Al­ge­ria, United States and Por­tu­gal.

“It’s been a re­ally fun tour­na­ment, we got to play against teams with dif­fer­ent styles,” said Canada mid­fielder Isaac Char­bon­neau from Corn­wall, Ont. “France was re­ally good, the moved the ball so fast and play­ing in the mid­dle (cen­tre mid­fielder) you get a re­ally good look at it. They have great one-touch play and they’re a re­ally good team.”

The Danone Na­tions Cup was or­ga­nized fol­low­ing the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, giv­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers an op­por­tu­nity to face in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

Play­ers such as Ar­gen­tine Eric Lamela of Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, Grant Xhaka of Ar­se­nal, Mex­i­can Gio­vani Dos San­tos and French in­ter­na­tional Alexan­dre La­cazette, also of Ar­se­nal, have played in the tour­na­ment.

“This is go­ing to be an in­spir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for them,” Rai­mondo said. “Re­gard­less of the scores, in 10, 20 years they’ll for­get the scores and the de­tails of the scores, but they’re go­ing to re­mem­ber play­ing against teams from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and from dif­fer­ent cul­tures with dif­fer­ent styles of play.

“The thing about play­ing a team like France is they can ap­pre­ci­ate the World Cup more now and they know what it’s like to play against play­ers from an­other coun­try.”

The pre­lim­i­nary rounds of the tour­na­ment are tak­ing place at the Salou Soc­cer

Sport­ing Com­plex, which is lo­cated an hour south of Barcelona. The fi­nals of the event will take place Satur­day at the RCDE Sta­dium just out­side of Barcelona, home to La Liga club Es­panyol.

The tour­ney was held in France the first nine years be­fore it be­gan to change venues. The fi­nals have been held in Johannesbu­rg, Madrid, War­saw, Lon­don, Sao Paulo, Mar­rakesh, and New York. The pre­vi­ous tour­na­ment was held at Red Bull Arena in Har­ri­son, New Jersey in 2017. Mex­ico are de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons in the boys event.

“Most of these teams have had a lot more time to­gether than we have,” Rai­mondo said. “In these con­di­tions we had to play the per­fect game and we have to get breaks, but we didn’t play per­fect and we didn’t get breaks.

“But that’s OK. We’ll come back (Fri­day) and play on the con­so­la­tion side for ninth place and we’re go­ing to try and do well as we can and finish as high as we can.”

It’s not re­ally a fair fight for our boys, we’re play­ing teams that have been train­ing all year to­gether.

coach Pat rai­mondo

SUP­PLIED / DANONE NA­TIONS CUP

Michael Salhi (left) and Wil­liam Boyer of Canada chal­lenge a French player at the Danone Na­tions Cup yes­ter­day.

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