Impact’s youngsters ready to shine in Brazil

Canada U17s open the tournament against the hosts this Saturday

For most players on the team, this is the biggest tournament of their life – thus far.

It’s been six years since Canada’s U17 side qualified for the U17 World Cup, and their seventh time in the history of the biennial competition.

And this time around, the Impact is very well represented. Six Impact players made the cut and will be a part of the 21-man group in Brazil: goalkeeper Benjamin Collins, defender Keesean Ferdinand, midfielders Tomas Giraldo, Sean Rea and Matthew Catavolo, and striker Mouhamadou Kane.

“We have a lot of diverse qualities, and different types of players on the team, which is interesting,” said midfielder Matthew Catavolo. “Offensively, we’ve got a lot of talent, and we’re very solid at the back. By combining those two aspects of our game, I think we can be very dangerous and cause other teams lots of damage.”

Canada qualified for the tournament when it edged out Costa Rica, 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes, in the quarterfinal of the Concacaf Men’s Under-17 Championship. The four semi-finalists of that tournament qualified directly to the World Cup.

Matthew Catavolo was there for that game along with his Impact teammates, scoring from the spot to help Canada earn the shootout win.

“That was a very intense game, with a great atmosphere,” said Catavolo. “It was the most important game of my career at that point. I know the atmosphere will be the same at the World Cup. In the end, everything is played on small details, and I think that’s what will make the difference. We need to be ready, because it won’t be easy, especially with the heat.”

Head coach Andrew Olivieri’s men were in Argentina for close to a week, taking part in one final training camp before flying to Brazil for the beginning of the tournament this Saturday. In Group A with Angola, New Zealand, and Brazil, the Reds will play their first game and consequently open the tournament against the Brazilian hosts.

“It’s incredible,” explained Catavolo. “We’re in Brasilia, and we’re opening the tournament against the hosts, in a stadium with over 20,000 capacity. It’s the biggest stadium I’ve ever played in. I have no words for it. I can’t wait to play in front of the crowd. The atmosphere will be amazing.”

Canada will then face Angola on October 29 and New Zealand on November 1, with all three matches to be played at the Bezerrão in Brasilia.

If Canada finishes in the first two spots of its group, it will qualify for the round of 16, which will begin on November 5. But to get there, Catavolo and his teammates know they’ll have to be at their very best.

“The game against Angola is going to be physical,” explained Catavolo. “Everyone will have to show up ready to play and battle hard. We still have to play the way Canada plays. As for New Zealand, I’m not too sure what to expect, but I feel confident heading into that game, and I know the team does also.”

You can watch Canada in action live on RDS and TSN, with kick off for the tournament opener against the hosts set for 4pm on Saturday, October 26.