Young Canadians draw Portugal in debut game at Toulon tournament

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(Darryl Dyck/CP)

VITROLLES, France — Canada drew Portugal 0-0 Monday at the Festival International Espoirs in France.

Better known as the Toulon Tournament, the youth soccer competition has seen the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Jean-Pierre Papin, Cafu, Alan Shearer and Frank Lampard since its inception in 1967.

This year’s tournament, which runs through June 9, marks Canada’s first participation.

Canada fielded an under-21 side at the Stade Jules Ladoumegue while Portugal went with an under-19 lineup. Canada senior men’s coach John Herdman was on the sidelines, along with assistant coach Mauro Biello.

"It’s a significant result against one of the tournament favourites," said Herdman. "Our kids have been working their socks off and they got a result."

Kris Twardek, a midfielder who plays for England’s Millwall, captained the Canadian side.

The starting 11 featured James Pantemis, Daniel Kinumbe and Shamit Shome from the Montreal Impact system and Aidan Daniels, Julian Dunn and Noble Okello from Toronto FC 2. Shome is currently on loan to Ottawa Fury FC.

David Norman Jr. (Vancouver Whitecaps) Theo Bair (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency) and Mathieu Choiniere (Montreal Impact academy) came on as second-half subs.

The Canadians, a mixture of players born from 1997 to 2000, face Turkey on Thursday and Japan on June 3.

Other countries competing are England, China, Mexico and Qatar in Group A and France, South Korea, Scotland and Togo in Group B.

The Canadian players born in 1999 or later will be eligible for the next CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, which serves as a qualifier for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. All 20 players are also eligible for Olympic qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

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