Canada has been handed a marquee matchup to open the FIFA U-17 World Cup – against host Brazil on Oct. 26.
The young Canadian men were matched with Brazil, New Zealand and Angola in Group A at Thursday’s draw at FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
Canada will face Angola on Oct. 29 and New Zealand on Nov. 1, with all three preliminary-round games in Brasilia at Estadio Walmir Campelo Bezerra, also known as the Bezerrao.
While it marks Canada’s seventh trip to the U-17 championship, Canada has yet to record a win – with an 0-14-4 record. But the four draws have come in Canada’s past two trips to the tournament – in 2011 and 2013.
Canada coach Andrew Olivieri said his players are buzzing about meeting Brazil.
“I’ve had a few of them already message how exited and happy they are to get such a great first match,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think you can ask for more than to play a team of Brazil’s quality. But to do it in the opening match is that much more special for them. It’s exciting.”
Brazil, tied with the United States with a record 17 appearances at the U-17 World Cup, won the tournament in 1997, 1999 and 2003. It was runner-up in 1995 and 2005, and finished third in 1985 and 2017.
Only Nigeria, with five titles (1985, 1993, 2007, 2013, 2015), has lifted the trophy more often.
Canada booked its ticket to Brazil in May, when it won a penalty shootout over Costa Rica to advance to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Bradenton, Fla. Canada then lost 4-0 to the U.S.
Mexico edged the Americans 2-1 to win the CONCACAF title and book its ticket to Brazil. Unheralded Haiti, which downed Honduras on penalties in the quarter-final, also advanced.
Midfielder Simon Colyn and defender Gianfranco Facchineri, both from the Vancouver Whitecaps academy, captained the team during qualifying. Eighteen of the 20 players on that roster came from the Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver academies.
The Canadians went 0-1-2 both in 2013 in the United Arab Emirates and 2011 in Mexico.
Prior to that, Canada had not qualified since 1995, when it lost all three games in group play. It also went 0-3-0 in each of 1993, 1989 and 1987 (when it hosted).
The top five teams – Mexico, Nigeria, France, Japan and Spain – were placed in Pot A for Thursday’s draw along with host Brazil. The other 18 teams were placed in the remaining three pots according to ranking.
Ecuador was initially drawn into Brazil’s group, but had to be moved because it is from the same confederation. New Zealand, in its eighth U-17 appearance, was chosen instead. The Canadians were next to join the group, followed by Angola, a U-17 World Cup debutante that qualified by finishing third at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Canada came out of Pot C, where it was grouped with Australia, Cameroon, Chile, Italy and the Netherlands.
Olivieri will hold a camp in Montreal with his players from July 31 to Aug. 10. The U-17 World Cup runs through Nov. 17.