Canada registered back-to-back wins in a U-23 international series in Qatar, posting both a 1:0 win over Uzbekistan and 2:0 win over hosts Qatar. The two victories provided a positive start for Octavio Zambrano, newly-appointed Head Coach of Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Program.
“It was extremely important that we came out to win these matches because we can,” said Zambrano. “It was also just as important that we had the opportunity to evaluate the players and I think after two matches we have an idea of what they are capable of doing.
“It is encouraging that there is a handful of them that get to a higher level and high enough to be with the first team.”
After Caniggia Elva scored the winner in the first match against Uzbekistan on 25 March, he set up the opening goal in the second win against Qatar on 28 March: a first-half, left-footed strike from Jordan Hamilton. In the second half, substitute Michael Petrasso combined his lovely touch with a chip shot over the goalkeeper for the 2-0 win. Kwame Awuah was the provider with a quick free quick that caught Qatar by surprise and put Petrasso in the open.
“It’s a great win,” said midfielder Jordan Schweitzer. “It was a hard fought battle against Qatar, but they were two really big-time goals by us to secure the win.”
It has been a positive two weeks for Zambrano, the new man in charge. After meeting with 18 players on the Men’s National Team in Scotland (a 1:1 draw in Edinburgh), he has worked closely with a second squad of 18 young players in Qatar.
“We are already planning that next Men’s National Team camp in June,” said Zambrano, who will make his official international “A” debut as Canada’s Head Coach on 13 June at Stade Saputo in Montréal. “It is going to be interesting to see which players from both North America and Europe that we can put together to make a solid group. We may also invite a couple of players from this group as that’s not out of the question: we need to start integrating them into the Men’s National Team that, possibly in five years, could be back here for Qatar 2022.”
The U-23 series provides Canada Soccer with an opportunity to develop and transition younger players on their path to the Men’s National Team. The tournament also provides coach Zambrano with his first matches in charge of the Canadian Men’s National Team Program. Coach Zambrano oversees an integrated program from the Men’s National Team through to all men’s national youth teams from the U-14 age level and up.