Canada
© EFE

The past
Canada returned to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico in 2011 after an absence at the junior finals stretching all the way back to 1995. A country normally associated more with ice hockey than football, the beautiful game is nevertheless beginning to gain a little traction in the Great White North, as a second-consecutive appearance at a FIFA U-17 World Cup directly attests. Canada have become semi-regular participants on the world stage across the age categories and hope to soon add to their biggest triumph, a solitary CONCACAF Gold Cup triumph in 2000.

The present

With a sturdy and physically robust approach, the Canuck juniors put in some impressive performances in the UAE 2013 CONCACAF zone qualifiers in Panama City. A draw with Costa Rica and a lively 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago saw them win their group before hammering Jamaica 4-2 in the quarter-final to book their place at UAE 2013 with a pair of goals from the speedy Andrew Gordon. Canada were just barely beaten in the semi-final by hosts Panama and then went on to beat Honduras in a penalty shoot-out to secure third place.

The future
The likelihood of a Canadian world title in the Emirates isn’t exactly realistic, but with no small amount of momentum after earning two credible draws at Mexico 2011 a place in the knockout rounds might not be too much to ask. Coach Sean Fleming, who has returned to lead the team for a second straight world finals, remains cautious. "I have now told the players it is up to them to do everything they can to ensure that we are prepared for the FIFA U-17 World Cup."