Back to where he once belonged

Home comforts do not come easy to players taking part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup but Canada goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is on very familiar ground after flying into Edmonton this week.

The Portsmouth player grew up in the 'Festival City' and he is hoping the party can finally get started for Canada after their disappointing opener in Toronto, where they went down 3-0 against Group A front-runners Chile.

Begovic had a difficult start in life, having been born in Bosnia shortly before the start of the devastating civil war which tore the country apart and he reflected on his colourful past when caught up with him at the team's hotel base in downtown Edmonton.

He said: "I was four when we had to move to Germany because of the war but luckily enough I don't remember those times too much. When you are younger you just deal with it but my parents had to cope with a lot of stuff and I have never had the chance to go back there." The family settled just outside Stuttgart in the south west of Germany but at the age of ten it was time to move again and this time Canada was his destination.

Coming home
Begovic wound up in Edmonton and there was a real sense of homecoming when the 6ft 5ins keeper landed in Alberta for the second and third Group A matches Canada will play in what he considers his own backyard, although he has been based in England for professional reasons since he was 16.

"I've still got a lot of close friends here in Edmonton and I have had loads of requests for tickets to our games," he said. "I'm always happy to be back for whatever it may be. I will really enjoy playing here and Edmonton has been really good to us. We played Brazil here last year at the start of a three-game series and we beat them 2-1 in front of a great crowd and that was probably my highlight while playing for Canada. We've had good results in this city so hopefully that will continue."

The tournament hosts badly need to turn their fortunes around in their next match against Austria at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday and Begovic is painfully aware of it. "Nothing went the way we wanted it to against Chile," he conceded "Everything we tried didn't work out. We didn't play to our strengths and we let them dominate us. They dictated the pace of the game and we can't let that happen here in our own country.

"We can cause a lot of teams problems and we've got that first game out of our system with all the nerves, or whatever it might have been. Now we move on and we're looking forward to playing Austria with some good support behind us and we just have to get a big result. I'm very excited about it."

Pompey progress
At club level, Begovic is still on a learning curve but he feels his progress has been pleasing, following loan spells with Macclesfield Town in England and La Louviere in Belgium."It's going really well for me at Portsmouth. I came back to England a year ago and I have been travelling a lot with the first team, getting in the squad and being on the bench a couple of times. David James is the number one and he's a good guy to learn from, so being his understudy is no bad thing. I can't wait to build on all that next season."

With his folks now based back in Germany again, the Pompey stopper is hopeful that one of his parents will be able to fly out to see him at Canada 2007, though his younger brother's school commitments are not making a family reunion easy. Begovic said: "I send some money to them from my wages and that's just what I think I should do. It's important that I can give something back for all the sacrifices that they made for me and it would be nice if they get to catch one of the games here.

"I have been playing football since I was five and my dad (Amir Begovic) was a professional goalkeeper with Leotar in the former Yugoslavia, so that's what I wanted to be. Luckily enough I have been able to live my dream." It will be up to Begovic to keep the Canadian dream alive when he steps between the posts on home turf this Thursday evening.