GWANGJU, South Korea (Team Canada) – After a week of training and a pair of friendlies, the Canadian men’s soccer team is prepared to bring home a medal at the 2015 Summer Universiade.
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After arriving in Korea, Canada played a pair of exhibition games against Japan and the Republic of Ireland. The red and white split the games dropping a 1-0 decision to Japan, the 2013 Universiade bronze medalists, before rebounding against Ireland with their own 1-0 victory off a second half goal from Jonathan Lao of Unionville, Ont. The Irish finished fifth overall at the Kazan, Russia games in 2013.
Keith Mason’s squad now prepares for its tournament opener on Thursday against Italy. As members of Pool A, Canada will also face Chinese Taipei and host country South Korea.
“After our two games here in Korea you can really see our team coming together,” said Mason, head coach at the University of Guelph. “With players coming from coast-to-coast, we held a mini-camp in Vancouver before departing for the Games to help get rid of any apprehensions. It was a great week, and you can tell that we are gelling as a team at the right time.”
This is Mason’s third appearance at the Universiade with Team Canada. He was the program’s team leader in 2003 in South Korea, and participated as an assistant coach in 2011 in Shenzhen, China. He believes his prior experiences have prepared him for the role of head coach, and that under his guidance the team will bring home their first medal in the event.
“I have grown stronger each time at the Universiade and now have a true understanding of what it takes to be successful at this level,” continued Mason. “I hope to pass my experience and knowledge onto the players and coaches and lead us to the podium.”
For Canadian winger Garrett Peters the team’s third game against the host nation in front of a sold out crowd is the game he is most looking forward to. “Playing in front of a sold out crowd is going to be an amazing experience,” the University of Saskatchewan student said. “The energy in the arena is going to be unbelievable and will be beneficial to both teams.”
Canada hopes for a good start against Italy. The team’s best result in history at the Games is a fourth-place finish in 2007 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Two years ago in Kazan, Canada finished seventh overall, its second best placing at the biennial competition.