Caleb Clarke is wearing Canadian colours this week at the Francophone Games in Nice, France.
The 20-year-old Richmond Youth Soccer product is one of three members of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC organization on the Canadian team that will face Cameroon, France, Rwanda and Congo in group play. The top two teams will adavance to the semi-finals.
Clarke earned his first call-up to the Canadian national team program in December 2011 for a 10-day camp with Canada's U18 side. Since then, he has been a fixture with the Canadian men's U20 national team. Earlier this year, he appeared in all three of Canada's matches at the CONCACAF Men's Under-20 Championship, scoring two goals in a 5-1 win over Nicaragua in February. The 6-foot-1 striker is currently on a year-long loan with German Bundesliga club FC Augsburg.
For Canadian coach Phillip Dos Santos, who has also been appointed Ottawa Fury FC technical director, the tournament in France represents another key step in the increased international exposure of Canada's youth players.
"It is important to realize that the players from this group will represent the country in next Olympic qualifying tournament in 2016," Dos Santos told CanadaSoccer. com ahead of his departure for France.
"Many of these players were part of our most recent U20 setup and this a crucial opportunity for them to get four more international matches against really strong international opponents."
With the likes of hosts France and African giants Cameroon drawn alongside Canada at the Francophone Games, Dos Santos paid full credence to the 'quality' of his side's group opponents - but as has been a familiar motif for Canada's youth program - he is urging his young team to dictate the style of play in the matches, even in the face of top-level opposition.
"We are going there to play, to impose our style," said Dos Santos.
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