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Canadians on a roll at CONCACAF U-17 tournament, bidding for World Cup berth

03/11/2015 04:46 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT
With three wins and a tie under its belt, Canada wraps up pool play Thursday against Panama at the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Honduras.

While the games are running out, there are plenty of permutations left with four berths at the FIFA U-17 World Cup on the line at the 12-team tournament.

The young Canadian men are second to Mexico, also 3-0-1, on goal difference in Group B with the Mexicans playing Costa Rica on Thursday.

A Canadian win coupled with a Mexican tie or loss and Sean Fleming's team wins the group, earning automatic qualification to the world championship that kicks off in mid-October in Chile.

Should Canada win by a goalfest, it could finish first in the group even if Mexico also triumphs although the odds are low.

Costa Rica (3-1-0) can also win the group if it beats Mexico and Canada loses or ties.

The two group winners book their ticket to Chile. The second and third-place teams in each group will be reseeded according to their points total with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 facing No. 3. The two winners will go to Chile.

Fleming has his charges focused solely on Panama (2-2-0), which has been eliminated from contention.

"That's all we can do," he said Wednesday from San Pedro Sula.

Canada has beaten Haiti 3-1, Costa Rica 3-2 and St. Lucia 3-1 in addition to tying Mexico 1-1.

"It's been very good," said Fleming. "I don't know if people really realize it. To come down in the environment we're in and get the results that we have, the kids have been tremendous."

The Canadians have made it difficult for themselves at times. Both goals given up to Costa Rica were due to mistakes. And they have fallen behind in every game but the win over St. Lucia.

But Fleming's team has responded each time, despite injuries and yellow cards.

"The kids have all stepped up," he said.

They have managed to maintain their focus despite being cooped up in their hotel. San Pedro Sula is known for its crime rather than tourism.

"It's difficult, because we can't go for walks anywhere," said Fleming.

A riot Wednesday at a prison they drove past to get to training left three dead and 15 hurt, according to one report.

The team has been out once, other than to play games or train, and that was for a movie. The players have spent time on schoolwork and in team meetings.

"We have lots of meetings. Sometimes meetings to have a meeting," said Fleming. "It's really to keep them occupied."

Still Fleming praised the local organizing committee, saying the food and accommodation have been excellent.

Under Fleming, Canada has qualified for the last two world championships at this age group. The young Canadians failed to advance out of the first round on both occasions, compiling a combined 0-2-4 record.

The Mexicans won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2011 and were runners-up to Nigeria two years ago.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.

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