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CP: Canada U-20's to Learn Draw Sunday

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Canada to learn Sunday who it will play at soccer's World Youth Championship

(CP) - Canadian coach Dale Mitchell will get a better idea Sunday of what this summer's World Youth Championship holds for his team when the draw for the under-20 men's soccer tournament is held in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

Twenty-four teams have qualified for the event, second only in terms of size to the men's World Cup among FIFA world competitions. Canada is hosting the event in 2007.

This year's tournament runs from June 10 to July 2 in six venues: Doetinchem, Emmen, Enschede, Kerkrade, Tilburg and Utrecht.

The draw will divide the field into six groups of four. The top two in each pool, plus the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout second round.

Countries from the same confederation won't be drawn in the same opening-round group. The exception is Europe, which has seven teams in the field.

It appears the seeded teams will be the Netherlands (host), Argentina, defending champion Brazil, Colombia and Spain (semifinalists from 2003) and Turkey (runner-up to Spain in European qualifying, with Europe the most successful federation behind South America in recent competitions).

In 2003, Canada was drawn with Australia, Brazil and the Czech Republic. The team went 1-2, beating the Czechs, and moved on as one of the top third-place finishers.

Led by Atiba Hutchinson and Iain Hume, the young Canadians beat Benin 1-0 before losing 2-1 after extra time to eventual runner-up Spain. It marked Canada's finest hour at the tournament - or any other FIFA-sanctioned men's world championship.

Canada survived the first round in 2003 despite having Brazil in its group but Mitchell would prefer to avoid Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Spain in his group this time around.

"When somebody says 'Who would you prefer to have in your group,' it becomes a little tougher because everybody's good," he said Friday from Utrecht prior to nipping out to watch Helmond Sport, home to under-20 midfielder Marcel de Jong of Newmarket, Ont.

"There are certain teams that clearly do well at this level, like the three South American teams that will be seeded. Spain will be good this time, along with the European clubs because of the time of year it is. They're going to be more successful in getting the players that are with big clubs and that was a problem in the UAE (when the Gulf War-delayed tournament kicked off in late November.

"I think Germany and Italy and teams like that will benefit from that. They'll be strong here. Given the fact it's in Europe, all of the European teams could cause you real problems."

As for Asia, Mitchell says South Korea appears to be the strongest side, followed by Japan. China may be a weaker entry.

The African teams are not that well-known "but physically they're going to give you a problem at the youth level because the players are traditionally pretty well-developed by the time they get here."

With the draw in hand, Mitchell and his braintrust will finally be able to flesh out their preparations for the tournament. They will know who and where they will play, plus the draw will help them figure out what friendlies might make sense ahead of the tournament.

On Saturday, Mitchell hopes to see Jonathan de Guzman, the brother of Canadian international Julian de Guzman, play for the Feyenoord under-19 team although there are no plans to meet. The younger de Guzman has not accepted a bid to play for Canada yet, preferring instead to focus on his club career.

"Where we're coming from is pretty consistent and it has been all along. We want him to play for us, but I don't think there's much point in continuing to chase him," Mitchell said. "At some point between now and the tournament, we'll ask him again where he's at in terms of his international career, what he wants to do."


UTRECHT, Netherlands (CP) - A look at this summer's World Youth Championship in the Netherlands, ahead of Sunday's draw:

When: June 10 to July 2.

Where: Doetinchem, Emmen, Enschede, Kerkrade, Tilburg and Utrecht.

Who: South Korea, China, Japan, Syria (Asia); Nigeria, Egypt, Benin, Morocco (Africa); Canada, Honduras, U.S., Panama (North and Central American and the Caribbean); Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile (South Africa); Australia (Oceania); Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, Switzerland, Italy, Germany (Europe); the Netherlands (host).

Defending Champion: Brazil.

Best Canadian Finish: Eighth in 2003, United Arab Emirates.

Eligibility: Players can be born no later than Jan. 1, 1985.

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