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Ottawa gets thumbs up from Warner


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Also some U-20 info that 20 friendlies are planned. Why doesn't the CSA get the idea that the MNT equivalent event is WCQ and plan to schedule a lot of friendlies before this.


Ottawa gets thumbs up

Frank Clair called 'ideal' for U-20


FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has a ball playing soccer with students from First Avenue Public School during a FIFA site evaluation at Frank Clair Stadium Monday. (Ottawa Sun/Blair Gable)

The city of Ottawa and Frank Clair Stadium have passed the first FIFA test.

On a tour of the six host cities for the 2007 under-20 World Cup in Canada, FIFA vice-president and chairman Jack Warner was quite taken by his visit to the nation's capital.

"I am very impressed with what I've seen so far," Warner said yesterday while standing on the pitch at Frank Clair.

"The facility continues to be what I admire and appreciate. I look at the setting here, I find it very picturesque," Warner said as he looked east towards the Rideau Canal. "This is, for me, more of the ideal facilities in the whole six venues. I am extremely pleased to report to FIFA on the progress I've seen."

The real challenge will be to successfully host the six round-robin and two knockout round matches slated for July 2007 at Frank Clair.

At that point, everything from ticket sales and merchandise to the product on the field is going to be under a microscope.

Organizers will be missing some big-time soccer countries from the event. Italy, England, Germany and France all failed to qualify.


All those European nations boast strong support in Canada and their absence could be a big loss at the gate. But Warner isn't worried about which nations didn't qualify.

"First of all, Brazil will be in, Argentina will be in, China will be in and Portugal will be in," said Warner, a Trinidad and Tobago native. "And for a start, that will do the sport here a tremendous good. Because those four countries alone will be enough to draw the kind of audience that you want ... At the end of the day, there will be 24 good teams here to give you a very good show."

Spain, Scotland, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic have also booked their spots in the event, while some qualifying is still to be completed.

It was agreed that in order for the tournament to be truly successful, the Canadian squad must do well.

"What is important for Canada as a host nation is to ensure that their team is competitive," said Warner.

Canadian Soccer Association COO Kevan Pipe says 20 exhibition matches have already been planned for Canada's side in preparation for the championship.

"Our goal is to try to replicate what we did in U.A.E. in 2003 where we finished in the quarter-finals," said Pipe. "We beat Brazil earlier this year, two weeks ago we beat the Czech Republic in Prague.

"This team will be prepared to the hilt, and the progress that we've seen so far on the field of play has been very, very encouraging."


Ottawa was also declared an official FIFA city yesterday, with Mayor Bob Chiarelli announcing plans to construct 100 full and kid-size soccer fields throughout the city.

The mayor also declared soccer as the official sport of Ottawa for 2007. To hear Chiarelli tell it, the city will go from being hockeytown to soccertown.

"Soccer has more players in the National Capital Region than hockey," he said.

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Look at how Rugby Canada prepares in comparison.

Canada to play mighty All Blacks


(CP) - Canada has already booked its ticket to next year's Rugby World Cup but the road to France will still take Canadian players through Wales, Italy, Ireland, England and New Zealand as coach Ric Suggitt prepares his team.

Suggitt confirmed Tuesday that the Canadian men will play the powerful All Blacks in New Zealand on June 16. The Test match is at the request of New Zealand, which has developed a good relationship with Rugby Canada in recent years.

The world No. 1 All Blacks, who crushed Canada 68-6 at the 2003 World Cup, are the class of the rugby world. Their current crop of talent is so deep coach Graham Henry can field several totally different lineups and still beat other rugby powers.

Not so for Suggitt, whose fortunes are tied to a limited number of key overseas pros.

Freeing up those pros from their club sides is not easy. But Suggitt says he hopes to bring all his top guns to New Zealand to see how Canada matches up with the world's best.

"I'd like every weapon, plus some," he said with a laugh. "That's the intent. We've already been talking to the top players that we have about that time. That would virtually be the start for us in our preparation for the World Cup."

Suggitt knows he needs the likes of captain Morgan Williams, Mike James and Jamie Cudmore in New Zealand.

"We can't afford to go down without those types of players and play against the All Blacks. It wouldn't be fair to them and it wouldn't be fair to us."

New Zealand also beat Canada at the 1991 World Cup, posting a 29-13 decision. New Zealand defeated Canada 73-7 in a 1995 visit Down Under prior to that year's World Cup and 43-10 in 1980 in Burnaby, B.C.

Canada's World Cup pool features Australia, Fiji, Wales and an Asian team, probably Japan. The Canadians open on Sept. 9 against Wales in Nantes.

Suggitt may not be able to assemble his entire squad until the New Zealand tour, but there will be plenty of World Cup prep work before that.

The 13th-ranked Canadians head to Europe next month to play No. 9 Wales on Nov. 17 and No. 12 Italy on Nov. 25. Unavailable for that trip are James, Cudmore, Rod Snow and Colin Yukes.

Suggitt plans a high performance camp for his top 30 domestic players in January on Vancouver Island. The domestic players are slated to go to Ireland for a series of games in late February and early March against club sides.

After that, the Canadian players will take part in the NA4 tournament, which splits the domestic players into Canada East and West against U.S. opposition.

The Canadians then go to England in mid-March for the Churchill Cup, which is shifting from Canada this year. After that, it's off to New Zealand on June 8 when Suggitt hopes to have all his stars in the fold.

The team will then take part in the finale of the NA4 in late June-early July.

Rugby Canada is hoping to organize a couple of home games before the national team leaves for the World Cup in late August.

"It's a lot of rugby," said a contented Suggitt.

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