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  • Friday, July 28, 2000

    Canada goes to Copa America

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- The Canadian Press

     Canada is going to Colombia next July to play in Copa America, rubbing elbows with the likes of Argentina and Brazil at the South American soccer championship.

     The Canadian Soccer Association confirmed Friday it had accepted in principle an invitation to play in the July 12-29 event in 2001.

     The proviso appears to be the timing of FIFA's Confederations Cup tournament. The Canadian Soccer Association says it will choose the Confederations Cup over Copa America if the two events clash.

     Canada won invitations to both tournaments by virtue of winning the February Gold Cup, which serves as the championships for the CONCACAF region of FIFA.

     FIFA is meeting next week to decide the time and place of the Confederations Cup, which brings together eight countries including FIFA's six confederation champions.

     There has been speculation that the Confederations Cup will take place in August 2001 in Japan and South Korea as a test event in advance of the 2002 World Cup.

     The 1999 Confederations Cup field featured Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. The Mexicans won, defeating Brazil 4-3 in the final.

     The 2001 entry list will include Euro 2000 champion France.

     Brazil won the 1999 Copa America, defeating Uruguay 3-0 in the final. Other teams competing were Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Japan and Mexico were invited teams.

     Canada has never been in such soccer-rich company before.

     Canadian officials had initially feared the two tournaments, when added to 10 games in the final round of World Cup qualifying, might be excessive.

     That does not seem to be such a concern anymore, perhaps because the Canadian team is struggling to keep its head above water in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying.

     Both the Confederations Cup and Copa America will help fill Canadian Soccer Association coffers, although probably not to the extent of what a berth in the World Cup is worth.

     Finishing fifth through eighth at the last Confederations Cup was worth $750,000 US while the winner walked away with $2 million US.

     ------

     Canadian Notes: Carlo Corazzin has signed a three-year contract with Oldham Athletic that frees the striker from New Westminster, B.C., to play in all of Canada's international games.

     But hard-nosed defender Mark Watson appeared to be in a tougher fight as he returned to Oxford United on Friday for contract talks with the English Second Division club.

     Watson, 29, has played for Canada 60 times but Oxford has balked at the number of games he would miss if Canada continues in World Cup qualifying.

     Club secretary Mick Brown is unapologetic about Oxford's concerns about Smith playing for Canada. And he dismisses the suggestion that having an international player is good for the team.

     "It's not if you get relegated as a consequence," he said Friday from Oxford. "It may be for clubs like Chelsea, who we are playing this evening (in an exhibition game), but clubs like us with a small squad, if you miss key players for key matches during the course of the season, then prestige means nothing.

     "We still have to pay the players when they're missing."

     Watson trained with Oxford on Friday before meeting with manager Dennis Smith to discuss his options.

     "We can't wait forever for Mark to make his mind up but now that he's here, we are in talks with him," Brown said.

     Watson's international commitments could cost him at Oxford.

     "It's maybe that the wages on offer may be slightly differed if we reach an agreement and he is still to play some internationals," said Brown.

     Translated, that means Watson makes more if he doesn't play for Canada. In the past Watson has said that is not an option.

     Oxford has made provisions in case Watson does not return. The team has signed Welsh defender Lee Jarman on a one-month contract and invited Swedish defender Anderse Jakobsen, formerly with Stoke, in for a trial.

     Corazzin, a 28-year-old free agent who played last season for Northampton Town, will make his debut for Second Division Oldham on Aug. 5 in an exhibition game with Leeds United.

     ------

     In Short: A decision will be made next week on whether Canadian goalie Craig Forrest, recovering from a hernia operation, will be fit for the Aug. 15 World Cup qualifying game against Mexico. West Ham, Forrest's Premier League team, flew Canadian team physio Alex McKechnie to London two weeks ago to work with the English club's therapists ... Veteran midfielder Nick Dasovic has won back his British work permit and is expected to start Saturday for St. Johnstone against Scottish champion Rangers ... Marc Bircham may be recalled to the Canadian team for the Mexico game. The Millwall midfielder is healthy again after a lingering ankle injury ... Striker Garret Kusch has finished a trial with Scotland's Kilmarnock and is awaiting word on whether he will be invited back. He will play in Sweden in the interim.

     ------

     Under-20 notes: Iain Hume of England's Tranmere Rovers and Julian deGuzman of Germany's FC Saarbrucken will lead the Canadian under-20 team at the U.S. Soccer Festival, which runs from July 29 to Aug. 6 in Rhode Island. The Canadians will play four games, including one against the U.S. under-20 side.

     Other European-based players on the squad are Tam Nsaliwa of Germany's Nurenberg FC and Mike Klukowski of France's Lille FC. The team is coached by former Canadian international Paul James.

     ------

     English notes: Newly acquired French goalie Fabien Barthez will wear No. 1 at Manchester United this season. Barthez usually wears No. 16 but that belongs to captain Roy Keane. Former starting 'keeper Mark Bosnich has been assigned No. 13, perhaps in keeping with the Australian's luck since arriving at Old Trafford. Third-choice Dutch goalie Raymond Van der Gouw is No. 17 and fourth-string American Paul Rachubka is No. 33 ... Barthez, who dates Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista, was left red-faced when he ended up in Liverpool after taking a wrong turn to training and driving 65 kilometres the wrong way ... Coventry striker Robbie Keane has flown to Italy for talks with Inter Milan amidst reports of a 12-million-pound ($26.6 million Cdn) transfer ... Liverpool's Jamie Redknapp underwent knee surgery in Colorado on Wednesday and will be out five months ... Wimbledon captain Robbie Earle has revealed he spent nine weeks in hospital after taking a kick to the stomach in a reserve match in Watford. The ensuing internal bleeding and infections caused him to lose nearly a third of his body weight and caused nearly eight pints of blood to leak into his stomach, according to London's Evening Standard. He has only recently resumed light training ... The British government says it will not help impose a quota system on non-European Union players. That's good news for Canadians. The Football Association had wanted to limit non-European Union players to two per team in the Premier League and one per club in the First Division.



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