The new home to Canada's national teams - the National Soccer Stadium at Exhibition Place - hosted its first official international on Friday as the FIFA U-20 World Cup hosts were only just edged out 2-1 in the dying seconds by holders Argentina in a pulse-pounding friendly.
Although Hugo Tocalli's Argentines were significantly under their normal strength, the result will still have Canada coach Dale Mitchell feeling good about his team's chances of getting a good run going this summer as they host the world's best young stars.
It looked as if a David Edgar-inspired Canuck side had done enough to earn a draw at the maiden voyage of the Toronto ground, which will be the stage for 12 games at this summer's youth finals including the hosts' opener and the grand Final. However, in the 88th minute, Gabriel Murcado slammed home a late winner - adding to Alejandro Gomez's strike in the 14th minute. Edgar, of Newcastle United, scored for the Canadians on 18 minutes.
Although Edgar, Jaime Peters of Ipswich Town, local boy Andrea Lombardo and Argentines Murcado and Marcelo Cardozo all dazzled, the real star of the evening was the brand-new, state-of-the-art-ground . Built last year as the new home for all levels of the Canadian national team program and MLS side Toronto FC, it can hold 20,000 spectators and is located in the heart of the city with a stunning view of the downtown skyline.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was on hand to help unveil the stadium as were numerous local governmental officials and CONCACAF president Jack Warner.
In the end, the near sell-out crowd was treated to a feast of football ahead of this summer's U-20 finals. Local fans are nothing if not excited about the coming festivities with 600,000 ticket packages snatched up and the Canadians' opening game and the Final (both in Toronto) already sold out.
"They (five-time U-20 world champions Argentina) are a top team," said Canadian coach Mitchell. "They caused us some problems, but I am proud how our boys coped with it and how they competed. At times, we caused them some problems and overall the match was positive for us…I'm not going to complain about losing 2-1 to Argentina."
Argentina boss Tocalli was also impressed with the opposition, calling the Canadians a "very strong team."
The Canucks will line up against Chile, Congo and Austria in Group A at this summer's finals in June and July while what is bound to be a star-studded Argentina will take on Czech Republic, Korea DPR and Panama in Group E.
The Canadians have lost two of their last three friendlies. Argentina - for their part - will be waiting on the status of players the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, whose participation in the finals depends largely on whether or not they are called into Alfio Basile's senior team for the 2007 Copa America.
Canada play the US next in Ottawa on 3 June and Kingston, Ontario three days later. Their current friendly tour wraps 18 June in Edmonton against the Czech Republic.