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  • Wednesday, August 30, 2000

    Canada may summon Hargreaves to World Cup squad

     TORONTO (CP) -- Canadian soccer officials may turn up the heat on talented teen Owen Hargreaves by inviting the Bayern Munich midfielder to play for the World Cup team.

     The 19-year-old from Calgary is currently training with the English under-21 squad. Wales is also courting him.

     Hargreaves was born in Canada but is eligible to play for England and Wales through his parents' bloodlines.

     He was invited to train with the English under-21 team in advance of Thursday's exhibition game against Georgia in Middlesbrough after he was recommended to the English Football Association by a Premier League scout and a member of the public.

     That came as news to Canadian coach Holger Osieck, who spoke with Hargreaves by phone recently.

     "We had a lengthy chat and he confirmed that he would decline any Welsh activities and that he would like to be part of our team in the future," Osieck said Wednesday from Alliston, Ont., where the Canadian team is training in advance of Sunday's crucial World Cup qualifying game in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

     "All of sudden I read about the English situation, which was quite surprising to me."

     "When I had the chat with him, obviously the English offer was not on the table," he added. "It must have been after that."

     Osieck called his conversation with Hargreaves "good and very positive," saying the midfielder had been kept up to date on the Canadian team's progress by Canadian defender Kevin McKenna and goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld, both of whom have ties to Germany and are close to Hargreaves.

     England's Daily Telegraph documented the hunt for Hargreaves on Wednesday in a story headlined Bayern's Cosmopolitan Kid in Three-Way Tug-of-War, saying the Canadian "has become the subject of demand usually reserved for superstars."

     Canada may be about to add to that demand.

     Asked if he might summon Hargreaves to join the Canadian national team for one of the two remaining games of this round of World Cup qualifying following this weekend's game, Osieck replied: "I think that definitely can happen."

     But time may be running out to hook Hargreaves.

     While he could play Thursday for the English under-21 side against Georgia, it wouldn't affect his eligibility because it is an exhibition match. Hargreaves played for a Welsh youth team in 1999 in a friendly tournament that also didn't have an impact on his future.

     But the English under-21 side embarks on its Euro 2002 qualifying campaign on Oct. 6 against Germany. As an official FIFA-sanctioned tournament, Hargreaves would be committed to England forever if he appeared in that game.

     In the past, Osieck has expressed frustration with Hargreaves' reluctance to declare his international allegiance. In March 1999, he withdrew an invitation to have Hargreaves attend a training camp for national and Olympic team players in Germany after the teen refused a subsequent request to play for the Canadian under-20 side at a tournament in Italy.

     But Hargreaves' rapid rise at Bayern Munich -- he has cracked the first-team squad this season and seen action as a substitute in several games already -- has made the midfielder hard to ignore.



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