Sunday, July 31, 2011

Canada's world cup draw

Too often I have complained about Canada's luck, or lack thereof, in being drawn into difficult groups for qualification to various FIFA tournaments. This is the loser's lament. A good team will beat its competition, no matter who it is.

Still, it never hurts to avoid some of the more difficult opponents. In that sense, the round 2 group that Canada was drawn into during yesterday's preliminary World Cup draw ticks all the boxes.

Other than Guatemala, Canada should have had few worries about its potential round 2 foes. And a group that features St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and Puerto Rico as challengers should not strike fear into Stephen Hart and the boys. These six matches should represent a chance for the team to build depth and cohesion, and possibly for Dwayne De Rosario or Ali Gerba to take a run at Dale Mitchell's goal scoring record. I am slightly worried that the team might only manage a draw in the away leg in Puerto Rico, but I have no doubt that the team should qualify comfortably.

If they do, they will end up in a semifinal group that features Honduras, Cuba, and likely Panama. The drawing of the semifinal group was always going to be more important than the round 2 selection, even if Canada had ended up with Guatemala. And this largely has to be seen as a win for Canada as well.

Cuba should be a walkover for Canada. If not, we're not good enough. That leaves Honduras and Panama. Both are teams we can and should beat. Honduras were beaten 2-1 in a friendly in Montreal, while Canada was in the driver's seat against Panama in the Gold Cup until an injury time gaffe. It won't be easy, but Canada is not a strong enough team that it ever would be.

I am certain that we will get through our round 2 group with little trouble. I'm not certain we'll advance to the Hex, but this draw has given us a good chance. And if we get into the final six, especially with the potential of a playoff with New Zealand if we finish 4th, anything can happen.

Which is all we could ever ask for.


CANADA'S WORLD CUP QUALIFICATION SCHEDULE
home team listed first

Friday 2 September : Canada v St Lucia
Tuesday 6 September : Puerto Rico v Canada
Friday 7 October : St. Lucia v Canada
Tuesday 11 October : Canada v Puerto Rico
Friday 11 November : St. Kitts and Nevis v Canada
Tuesday 15 November : Canada v St. Kitts and Nevis

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