Andrea Lombardo, as the name might suggest, is just one member of a huge Italian-Canadian community who calls the Toronto area 'home'. And his connection to the 'old country' goes well beyond tall tales from his immigrant parents, Anna Maria and Onofrio, around the dinner table. Having had stints with Italian outfits Atalanta Bergamo and Perugia, the striker, who hails from North York, Ontario (near Toronto), has now settled down closer to home at brand-new Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC and is looking forward to his second consecutive FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer on home soil.
"Our goal is just like everybody else's - to get out of the first round," the sturdy forward, who was an unused sub in MLS side Toronto FC's first-ever match (a 2-0 loss to Chivas USA) at the weekend, told FIFA.com. "Once you get to the knockout stages anything can happen. If soccer, or tournaments for that matter, were a math equation we would all know the results already, and we wouldn't have to play the games. So we just want to go out there and show some people what we can do."
There is no doubting what 19-year-old Lombardo can do. Scoring in a recent friendly win over fancied four-time U-20 world champions Brazil, his ability in front of goal was keenly on display. Alongside Newcastle United defensive starlet and captain David Edgar , who also played at the Netherlands 2005 , Lombardo will be expected to lead his younger and less experienced team-mates this July in the latest instalment of the 30-year-old world youth showpiece.
"Lining up against those yellow shirts of Brazil is a thrill in itself," the articulate hit-man added. "But scoring against them was an unbelievable thing. We've been training for two years and we played Brazil twice and managed to win one of those games, that's a good sign as we look ahead."
Two years before Lombardo lined up in his first FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Lowlands, a young Canuck side - led by current boss Dale Mitchell - swooped to reach the quarter-finals of the 2003 event in the United Arab Emirates . Led by the outstanding Iain Hume and Josh Simpson, the spirited side went further than any other Canadian team had ever dared at a world championship (any age level) and missed out on a place in the semis by a matter of seconds.
Now, four years on and with the added benefit of playing on home soil, Lombardo - heir to goal machine Hume - sees a chance to make history. "We are playing on home soil and people are going to come out to roar us on. Canadians love to support the home teams and this will be big for the country," the forward, renowned for his aerial ability, remarked.
Facing different styles
"This is the world stage and we will be pumped up to perform," Lombardo went on, making reference to the record crowds that came out in 2002 to cheer the Canadian women on to the final of the first-ever FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship. "The crowds won't make us nervous - they will get us up for the action. We are all pros and we have to come together and use the crowd to our advantage."
"These tournaments are always tough, all the teams that get here are great," he said, knowing full well Canada will have their work cut out in trying to get past Chile, Congo and Austria in the first round. "We know that we can do well if we apply ourselves and we are training hard. We will have to play three different teams with three very different styles, but it's cool, we'll be ready."
Though his side will be underdogs, Lombardo has a great and stereotypically Canadian optimism about the whole thing. "Anything can happen - you can blink your eyes and then you're out of the tournament…or you can turn around and you're walking out of the tunnel for the final."
"Whatever happens," the striker concluded with a suddenly steely countenance, "we'll be ready."
Considering their comprehensive preparations for the finals, Lombardo and the boys are bound to be well drilled. Splitting a two-game series with fellow finalists Scotland, the team recently held a full training camp in the US and are set for a warm-up match with South American maestros Argentina on 11 May.