Mitchell and Canada to face Iceland

Dale Mitchell

Dale Mitchell

8/14/2007 6:30:00 PM

Spurs fullback Paul Stalteri will captain a European-based squad in Iceland on Aug. 22 as Dale Mitchell makes his debut as coach of the Canadian senior soccer side.

Canada, ranked 52nd in the world, will take on No. 109 Iceland in Reykjavik in the first meeting between the two countries.

Ten of the 17 players summoned were part of the Canadian team that reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June.

With the Iceland game a midweek fixture, Mitchell said he elected not to take North American-based players away from their teams. But he plans to bring them back into the fold for a Sept. 12 friendly against Costa Rica in Toronto.

His decision allows him to delay a potential clash with Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston, who is still unhappy about the treatment of goalkeeper Greg Sutton. The Canadian No. 1 has been sidelined since suffering a concussion in training with Canada at the Gold Cup in early June.


But with Sutton and defender Jim Brennan currently hurting, Mitchell may not have asked Johnston for much even if he had included North American-based talent.

Mitchell said he has not talked to Johnston. As for the Toronto coach's complaint that the national team did not carry a doctor on the road, the Canadian coach called it ''a fairly complex issue.''

Mitchell said the national team tries to have a local doctor on hand in countries it visits. ''And that will certainly be the case in a country  like Iceland because we know that we will get good care over there.

''Perhaps it's not ideal, but I think that we're doing everything we can to  make sure the players are well-looked after and that will be how we continue into the future.''

Four players were invited but were unavailable for the Iceland trip: goalkeeper Josh Wagenaar (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands) is injured while defender Kevin McKenna (FC Koln, Germany) and midfielders Marcel de Jong (PSV, Netherlands) and Tam Nsaliwa (Palonius, Greece) were all kept at home by their clubs.

With McKenna unavailable, Stalteri will continue as captain as he earns his 60th cap for his country.   

That will move the 29-year-old past Carlo Corazzin into sole possession of  eighth place on the Canadian caps list, just one behind Colin Miller and Mike Sweeney.

Mitchell did invite veteran striker Tomasz Radzinski, despite the fact that the 33-year-old is without a team after parting ways with Fulham.

''Based on what I saw last year both when he was playing for Fulham and also when he was involved with the national team, he still has a lot to offer,'' Mitchell said in a conference call. ''That's our reason for continuing to include Tomasz.''

Mitchell has called up two uncapped players: goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (Portsmouth, England) and midfielder Nik Ledgerwood (1860 Munich, Germany),

Begovic was the starting goalie for Mitchell's under-20 side, which went 0-3-0 and failed to score a goal at the recent FIFA U-230 World Cup. He will likely back up former Canadian No. 1 Lars Hirschfeld in Iceland.

In choosing his first senior squad, Mitchell reckoned he had 20-plus European-based players and 10-15 North American-based players to choose from.

Iceland is currently at an all-time low in the rankings. But its average since FIFA started its rating system in 1993 is actually higher than Canada's, No. 63 compared to No. 73.

Iceland currently stands sixth in Group F qualifying for Euro 2008 with a 1-5-1 record. While they were only beaten by 1-0 by Spain, they recently tied tiny Liechtenstein 1-1 and were thumped 5-0 by group leader Sweden.

Iceland's lone win was a 3-0 decision over Northern Ireland.

''You go through their roster and a lot of their players that are playing in Europe are playing at a similar level to a lot of our players,'' Mitchell said.

The big name is striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, a former Chelsea player who is expected to be on the move soon from FC Barcelona.

The Icelandic team will be tough on broadcasters. All 33 members of the Iceland lineup listed on UEFA's website have names ending in -son or -sen.

Iceland has a population of about 302,000, slightly less than the Windsor, Ont., region according to the 2006 census.

Canada: Lars Hirschfeld, Nik Ledgerwood, Mike Klukowski, Andre Hainault, Julian De Guzman, Paul Stalteri, Patrice Bernier, Tomasz Radzinski, Rob Friend, Richard Hastings, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Atiba Hutchinson, Daniel Imhof, Olivier Occean, Ali Gerba, Iain Hume, Asmir Begovic.

Head Coach: Dale Mitchell

Assistant Coaches: Stephen Hart, Nick Dasovic.

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