Canada U17 head coach Paul Stalteri (pictured) competed in the 1992 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship as a player. (Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – At 15-years-old, taking on the likes of Argentina, Australia and Nigeria, Paul Stalteri captained Canada at the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan.
Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, he will be looking to guide the Canadians to the 2017 edition of the competition as head coach.
At Tuesday’s draw for the 2017 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, Canada ended up in Group B with Costa Rica, Cuba and Suriname.
After enjoying an outstanding professional career as a defender in Europe, spent mostly with Germany’s Werder Bremen and included a 2004 Bundesliga title, Stalteri is looking forward to the competition -- his first in charge of the U17 side.
“It is a well-balanced group,” said the 39-year-old, when asked to give his thoughts on the opposition. “I think no matter which team we faced in this tournament, it was never going to be easy. We will do everything we can to do well in this tournament.
“Our goal is to get to the U-17 World Cup, but first we need to focus on finishing in the top two and then from there turn our attention to the next round.”
Stalteri has kept the squad busy in 2016, playing friendlies against Jamaica, Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as conducting training camps.
Regardless of known and prospective opponents, Stalteri acknowledged that in order to qualify for a U-17 World Cup, playing and beating the teams in front of yours is required.
“Avoiding USA or Mexico is certainly not an advantage,” he stressed. “This is a tournament with the best teams in CONCACAF, so all games will be competitive. So, for us, Costa Rica, Cuba and Suriname will all be tough games and our objective is to win all of those games and get to the next round.”
The last time Canada qualified for the U-17 FIFA World Cup was in 2013, when it finished third in CONCACAF competition, which, coincidentally, was also held in Panama.
NOTES: Stalteri also participated in CONCACAF Under-17 Championship as player, appearing in five games in the 1992 tournament as Canada finished third in Cuba. He scored one goal in an 8-0 win over Panama.