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The probable starting eleven is in the article below.

GK Onstad

RB Stalteri

LB Jazic

CB DeVos

CB Watson

RM Hume

LM DeRosario

CM DeGuzman

CM Imhoff

ST Peschisolido

ST Radzinski


Canada faces mystery team in Belize

Canadian Press


KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) - Almost four years and 27 matches after Canada's last World Cup aspirations died in the torrid heat of Trinidad, the Canadian men's soccer team takes the first step towards Germany 2006 on Sunday.

It will be a modest beginning against Belize, a soccer minnow ranked 180th among the 205 countries rated by FIFA. That means even the British Virgin Islands have bragging rights over the Belizeans.

And the World Cup qualifying journey will start in modest surroundings - the 10,000-capacity Richardson Stadium, a no-frills university venue that offers little more than bleachers.

The game will be followed by a return match Wednesday, with the winner on total goals advancing. The second game was to have been played in Belize but was rescheduled here at the request of the visitors, whose bank account and infrastructure were apparently not up to the challenge.

The spartan setting and no-name opponent illustrate how far Canada has to go to join the big boys on the world soccer stage _ the 32 countries at the World Cup.

Three teams from CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America and the Caribbean, will eventually advance to the finals in Germany. A fourth CONCACAF team will have a shot at joining them through a playoff.

Ranked 95th by FIFA, Canada is currently rated 10th among CONCACAF countries. Belize may be a minnow, but Canada isn't that much higher in the food chain when it comes to world soccer. It should have its way against Belize, but nobody is taking anything for granted.

``If we play the way that we're capable of playing, I think we'll be able to win the game but you can't take anybody lightly any more in international football,'' cautioned veteran defender Jason deVos.

Just look at the 2002 Gold Cup quarter-final against Martinique, which took Canada to a penalty shootout after the game ended in a 1-1 tie. Canada won the shootout 4-3.

Head coach Frank Yallop remembers a 0-0 draw in Bermuda in World Cup qualifying in 1992.

Yallop has opted for an attacking lineup with Dwayne De Rosario and Iain Hume, both strikers with their club teams, playing on the left and right flanks in support of forwards Paul Peschisolido and Tomasz Radzinski.

Julian deGuzman will play central midfield with Daniel Imhof in a defensive holding role.

Pat Onstad starts in goal behind a backline of deVos and Mark Watson in the centre with Ante Jazic on the left and Paul Stalteri on the right.

The other side of the field remains a mystery.

``We tried to get as much as information as we could and we couldn't get anything,'' Yallop said of the Belizeans.

What is known is Belize is coached by Anthony Adderley, who is in the grocery business. Star striker Norman Tilliman, who was unable to make the trip to Canada, also is a grocer.   

The visitors won't be in awe of the field at Richardson Stadium, despite the fact that organizers have spent two months getting the surface ready.

``It's as good as it can be,'' Yallop said. ``We need to improve our playing surface because we've got some great players that play on world-class surfaces.

``That's always an issue for me. They've done a good job on this field, though. Three weeks ago it was tough.''

Yallop is realistic, however. He knows good surfaces require money ``and we haven't got any at the moment.''

It is telling that the Belize matches are taking place on grass in Kingston, instead of larger facilities in Ottawa and Montreal that the national women's team have used. But those venues feature FieldTurf, an artificial surface that is still met with resistance for anything else by training by many in the men's game.

Organizers may have to truck in some new goal posts Sunday. The ones on display Saturday featured square posts instead of the rounded ones mandated by FIFA.

The Canadians in camp are savouring life under Yallop, who has a good way with his players. He is focused on the pitch but relaxed off it, treating his players as adults.

``We play our football, we do it 100 per cent and then we have a laugh afterwards,'' said Hume.

Added deVos: ``It's a completely different atmosphere in the camp right now. It's gone 180 degrees than what it was, even six months ago. Frank's brought a freshness to the team and an attitude, an atmosphere that when it's time to do our work we're all business, but away from the field and that we try to enjoy ourselves and enjoy each others company.''

Canada's last World Cup dream died in a 4-0 loss in Port-of-Spain on Sept. 3, 2000. The Canadians played two more qualifying games, but the loss in Trinidad eliminated them from advancing to the final round of competition in the region.

Notes: Sunday is Canada's first home game since Nov. 15, 2000 - a 0-0 draw with Mexico at Toronto's Varsity Stadium . . . Like his predecessor Holger Osieck, head coach Frank Yallop has no time for the FIFA ratings, which currently have Canada sandwiched between Togo and Vietnam at No. 95. ``The rankings are just bits of paper,'' he said. ``We've just to get better in our region and not worry about where we stand and where we fall and if Vietnam is better than us. We're probably never going to play Vietnam or Togo ever.'' . . . Look for some patriotic hairdos from Canadians Marc Bircham and Iain Hume. Bircham's mohawk has a red streak while Hume plans a red Maple Leaf in tandem with his swirling, angled mohawk.

Canada: Pat Onstad, San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), Paul Stalteri (Werder Bremen), Jason deVos, Ipswich (England), Mark Watson, Charleston Battery (A-League), Ante Jazic, Rapid Vienna (Austria), Iain Hume, Tranmere (England), Julian deGuzman, Hannover 96 (Germany), Daniel Imhof, St. Gallen (Switzerland), Dwayne De Rosario, San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), Paul Peschisolido, Derby County (England), Tomasz Radzinski, Everton (England).

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