Eduardo Jauregui is seen at the Canada national futsal team camp in Laval, Que., in a Dec. 15, 2019, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Soccer, Audrey Magny, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Canada futsal team opens World Cup qualifying at CONCACAF tourney in Guatemala City

Canada futsal team opens World Cup qualifying at CONCACAF tourney in Guatemala City

Delayed by a year due to the pandemic, Canada finally gets its chance Tuesday to kick off qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.

The Canadian men open against Haiti in a CONCACAF Futsal Championship that is down to 13 teams with the withdrawal of French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe. The tournament, which runs through Sunday in Guatemala City, will determine the four representatives from North and Central America and the Caribbean at this September’s World Cup in Lithuania.

Canada, under head coach Kyt Selaidopoulos, has been drawn in Group C with reigning CONCACAF champion Costa Rica and Haiti. The top two in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals with the final four booking their ticket to Lithuania.

All games are being played at the Domo Polideportivo, which hosted the 2000 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

The Canadian team met in Chicago, stopping in Houston before arriving in Guatemala City a week ago.

“We’re basically in a bubble,” said Selaidopoulos. “We go from the bus to the hotel to our rooms and to our meeting room … There’s no movement outside or anything. Just when we take the bus to the facility.”

The indoor futsal game is five-a-side with two 20-minute halves. The clock stops whenever the ball goes out of play or there is a break in play. Each team starts with one goalkeeper and four outfield players on the pitch, with unlimited substitutions.

It is a high-energy physical game, with space at a premium and close control of the ball an asset. There are elements of both basketball and hockey, with players looking to get in the way of opponents like a basketball screen and teams pulling their goalkeeper for an extra attacker.

Canada came close to making the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup, denied by a 7-4 loss to Cuba in its final group game at the CONCACAF qualifier. The Canadians lost to Costa Rica 3-2 and beat Curacao 7-4 before falling to Cuba.

“We came close but it’s a learning process,” Selaidopoulos said. “We learn from it and now we’re a little bit better prepared to face challenges.”

Canada ended up finishing sixth in CONCACAF in 2016. It placed seventh in 2012, its only other participation.

Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama and Guatemala represented CONCACAF at the 2016 World Cup.

Canada has not qualified for the Futsal World Cup since the inaugural event in 1989 in the Netherlands, where it failed to advance from the first round after beating Japan and losing to Argentina and Belgium.

Brazil has dominated the world futsal scene, winning five of the eight FIFA World Cups. Spain has won twice and finished runner-up to Brazil three times. Argentina is the defending champion.

Ian Bennett, named MVP of the Major Arena Soccer League this season, provides some veteran leadership to the Canadian squad. The 37-year-old is a longtime member of the Milwaukee Wave. But he switched to the Florida Tropics when Milwaukee elected not to take part in the MASL season.

“Ian is a big attribute to our team. He’s one of the oldest and he understands that this is probably his last chance to get to a World Cup so he’s focused and he’s ready to go,” Selaidopoulos said.

Jason (Jayzinho) Quezada is a renowned street footballer, a magician with the ball.

“We’re adding something different into the mix,” said Selaidopoulos. “And hopefully it pays off.”

The roster also includes former Canadian futsal player of the year winners Nazim Belguendouz and Luis Rocha, who is an alternate on the squad.

Mo Farsi, last year’s top futsal player, opted to focus on his Canadian Premier League career with Cavalry FC. Farsi was named the CPL’s Best Canadian U-21 Player in 2020.

Selaidopoulos’ squad has had to come together virtually over the last year. He says that is not an issue given the connections on the team.

There are seven returning players from the 2016 CONCACAF Championship including the Brazilian-born Freddy Moojen. The 38-year-old won the Golden Boot at the 2016 qualifier with five goals in three games.

Haiti, Canada’s first opponent, should not present many surprises given some of its roster comes from Montreal-based players with Haitian bloodlines.

Costa Rica is a three-time CONCACAF champion, including the last two tournaments. The Costa Ricans are coming off 7-1 and 8-2 warmup wins over Trinidad and Tobago.

On the plus side, Canada tied and beat Costa Rica (2-2 and 2-1) when the two sides met in early 2020. On the minus side, Canada has not played since.

Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Paraguay, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Solomon Islands, Spain and Venezuela have already qualified for the 2021 World Cup along with host Lithuania.

Asia’s qualifier was also called off due to COVID-19. The Asian confederation has nominated Iran, Japan and Uzbekistan with playoffs later this month featuring Iraq versus Thailand and Lebanon versus Vietnam to determine the region’s last two spots.

The 43-year-old Selaidopoulos has served as head coach of the Canadian futsal team since 2016. He represented Canada in futsal from 2003 to 2012 and at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2006.

In March, the Montreal native was named an assistant coach at the CPL’s Forge FC. He declined to say if he would coach Canada if it made it to the World Cup.

CONCACAF Futsal Championship

Group A: Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominican Republic.

Group B: Panama, Mexico and Suriname.

Group C: Costa Rica, Canada and Haiti.

Group D: Cuba, United States, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Canada Roster (x- denotes alternates)

Goalkeepers: Joshua Lemos, Milwaukee Wave (U.S.); Louis-Philippe Simard, Spartiates Sports Club.

Defenders: Daniel Chamale, Milwaukee Wave (U.S.); Bila Dicko-Raynauld, Sporting Quebec FC; Eduardo Jauregui, Toronto Idolo Futsal; Maxime Leconte, Spartiates Sports Club; Nazim Belguendouz, Spartiates Sports Club.

Midfielders: Ian Bennett, Milwaukee Wave (U.S.); Nico Gonzales, Calgary Villains; x-Safwan Mlah, Sporting Montreal; Robert Renaud, Milwaukee Wave (U.S.); x-Luis Rocha, Toronto Idolo Futsal; Marco Rodriguez, Toronto Idolo Futsal.

Target: Damian Graham, Toronto Idolo Futsal; Frederico Moojen, Dallas Sidekicks; Jason Quezada, Miami.

—-

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read