Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hate-watching Canada-Panama

Canada lost 2-0 yesterday in Panama City, deep-sixing their chances of advancing to the Hex out of Group C. The result was bad, but there was so much else that I hated.

Panama, the country
How do I hate thee? Let me name the ways:

  1. Your countries' priorities are so profoundly warped that a 6-hour night time party outside a business hotel with the sole purpose of disrupting an opponent's sleep is considered a legitimate form of expression. Police stood by and watched. In any civilized country demonstrators would have been jailed.
  2. You can't keep the stadium lights on for more than 6 minutes. Seriously.
  3. You can't competently produce a television broadcast from your national stadium of the 1 sport your country cares about. Constant switching of camera angles, action missed for replays, etc.
  4. Throwing beer at foreign press is a standard form of celebration.
We had been told that Panama was of a different sort than the other Central American hellholes (I'm looking at you, Honduras) but that was clearly not the case.

Panama, the players
We had also been told that the players respected the game a bit more than their dive-happy neighbours.  The team's outrage in Toronto over Kenny Stamatopoulos' hide-the-pickle routine, and repeated harping about the Hutchinson-to-De Ro goal-without-honour would suggest they felt some claim to the moral high ground.  This is what I saw.
  1. Early swarming of the young El Salvadoran referee to ensure he would fail to stamp any sort of authority on the match.
  2. Repeated diving/simulation to earn fouls in the attacking area by Blas Perez and Quintero.
  3. Repeated diving/simulation to waste time in the second half by the above-mentioned players, and the rest of the team, notably the keeper Pinedo.  I counted 4 separate occasions where a player went down, rolling and clutching his face, looked upfield for the ref's reaction, that jumped into a sprint when no foul was awarded.
Elmer Bonilla, referee
He didn't make any game alteration decisions but was clearly cowed by the occasion, helped along by some early protests by the Panama team. This was a game begging for 4 or 5 yellows for rash challenges and simulation but he mostly kept the cards away.

Canada, the players (Marcel de Jong, excepted)
I hate everything about Panama, its people and the players, but the Canada performance was out-of-this-world bad.  They clearly were not up for the occasion from the start and any result would have been entirely undeserved. The midfield was awful, especially Julian de Guzman.  Patrice Bernier deserves his own sentence, so terrible was his contribution. David Edgar was shambolic at right back, though Kevin McKenna also had an off-night.

Marcel de Jong put in a creditable performance.  Canada has one player that can cross the ball.

Stephen Hart
By what logic does changing the formation for the team's most important match during his tenure to a 4-4-2 after four years of 4-5-1 make any sense? His hands were somewhat tied, but the team had no idea what to do under that alignment, and it forced him to play several out of position. The performance level ticked up noticeably when the side shifted into the more familiar 4-5-1.

He must be fired if Canada doesn't qualify for the Hex. And a proper international coach (not Tony Fonseca!) brought in to take his place.

Canada's chances
There is an off-chance (a big Panama win over Honduras and a big Canada win over Cuba in the next matchday) that Canada could go to San Pedro Sula in October, lose, and still qualify. This is good because Canada will lose in San Pedro Sula, another epic shithole.

What did I miss?


Anonymous said...

There's a lot of shitty thoughts in this blog... whatever Panama's team did with the "dives" it was shown clearly that Panama did everything better on the game field... as your manager stated "Canada were second best at everyting". After all, who the fuck are you? A football expert?

Patrizia Mangiafico said...

You hurts to lose...hurts to come back to Canada as a crap. Hurts to be the poor maple guys. It hurts, I know...but remember... And read carefully Panama 2- Canada 0. Have a sweet dreams...if you can!

J said...

Welcome, Panamian readers.

If you read past the first half of the post, you'll see that I condemned Canada's performance as terrible. In fact, this is probably the worst I've seen the team play, ever. Panama didn't have their best night on the pitch but were still miles better. Good on Hart for admitting that the players were second best. He also deserves a large share of the blame for putting them in such a difficult spot by playing many players out of position (Edgar, Bernier, Ricketts, etc.) and changing to a brand new formation for the first time in years. He will be fired if we don't advance from this group, and it will be a just firing.

Still, it is possible to be the better team on the pitch and still behave like assholes. This is what Panama did. It is a problem with the Latin American football culture and I am not going pretend it doesn't happen just because the teams win doing it. Soccer is growing in Canada but one of the main obstacles to growth is the perception that soccer players fake injuries to waste time and cheat by diving to deceive the referee. My usual argument is that the problem is just as bad in other sports like ice hockey and basketball, but I can't make this argument when they've just watched a Central American team play.

I hope you guys qualify (we have far more reasons for hating Honduras here in Canada than we do Panama) but I also hope that you and you neighbours can learn to win and not also play in a way that is profoundly embarrassing.

After all, you don't need to be a "football expert" to see that your friend Quintero goes to ground easily, or that the keeper Pinedo's injury came at a convenient time. Or, for that matter, that the demonstration outside the hotel breaks all kinds of public disturbance laws but that your police turned a blind eye to it.

Please continue to read this blog. You may not find that I'm a football expert, but you might learn something about soccer in Canada. Maybe that knowledge will be useful in the next World Cup qualifying campaign 4 years from now when hopefully we are a much stronger team with a much better coach.

Also, please beat the hell out of Honduras in October. We're counting on it.

Anonymous said...

just to refresh your memory... remember the first game in Toronto when your bench tried to hid the ball from Panama... how you call that? is that part of your culture? no, of course not! a lot of teams in the world use some sort of tactics to waste some time. So I don't understand when you say that is part of the Latin America culture, I don't know if you watch football games in other countries and I agree with you is not fair but don't try to pretend that this kind of tactics belongs only to Central America. There is no doubt that in the future your team will improve because your country has the resources to make a long term plan but for now, even if we are not classified yet for the next round, we can say more than ever that we won the game without any doubts. For the disturbance I only have to say that is normal to see this kind of behavior right here... as the fans always try to play their part before the fixtures. So get use to it.

J said...

I'll assume you are one of the Panamians who already commented above. Thanks for making a more level-headed response.

I agree that time-wasting and simulation are a problem everywhere in world football. But I don't think it's unfair to suggest that certain behaviours are more characteristic of Central American teams. I watch a lot of European football (Dutch, mainly) and the same actions do happen, but less often. Canada also does not encounter such problems as often with certain teams in our region, in particular the USA.

Canadian teams such as Montreal and Toronto have also taken part in the CONCACAF Champions League in recent years and there is a clear cultural difference between their usual American opponents, and the teams they play from El Salvador, Panama (Tauro FC), and Mexico.

I would hope in future that your police will make sure that fans play their part only in the stadium. I hope we do get to meet again in the Hex and Canada is able to offer a better performance, and your electricians can keep the lights on.

Anonymous said...

This team out there for most of the match this evening are a bunch of supporting cast role players at club level. The only guy who's considered a "bell cow" in a marquee playing positon for his club went out injured after 6 minutes. The rest of the guys lack the charisma needed to gut out results in tough situations.

We had to play with two guys who are best when they hang off the last defender looking for through balls or over the top passes towards the corner flags. Neither Jackson (too small) nor Ricketts (too poor of technique) have the ability to play with their backs to goal and hold up the ball for attacking support (unlike Perez, who was excellent coming back deeper for the ball and maintaining possession), and yet we continued with that target man game plan. Also, neither guy played off of each other very well if at all: it seem liked two lone forwards instead of a tandem.

When this team falls behind against any decently organized CONCACAF opponent it's like a turtle trying to flick back to normal from it's back.

Johnson's return should keep Bernier on the bench. That debate is now over, thank god.

Anonymous said...

Playing outside home is always difficult for any team, but how could you say that those kind of tactics are less often in other countries than in Central America? As an example watch Real Madrid and Barcelona, when they have the opportunity they will... electricity and the party outside the hotel are not excuses to say that your team under performed. Sorry but those factors are not part of football in the pitch, everyone knows that there is a pre game and the game itself. It's up to the teams involved in competition to keep the coolness and focus on what they need to achieve, not paying attention to those little details. This is not the first time a party occurs outside an hotel, just ask to Mexico and other teams. I feel that your blog is focusing mainly in those aspects that should not impact the game itself. Of course there's always a cultural aspect before any game but to be fair Canada had their worst game in this round. Just to let you know that money does not guarantee wins, ask USA. They are having some crazy games in their group, they have the resources but at the end what you need is talent. I'm not saying that Panama has the best talents in area, but Panama has a long story of trying to develop their football with tight resources (economics). Our local league is not as good as others in the area but eventually it should improve. Panama played well against your country but against Cuba in our home soil Panama under performed, even if they got the 3 points. I remember that Klinsmann said that one of the biggest problems in football development in USA is due to the fact that peoples does not commit in the long term to practice this sport. They usually think in playing that sport for the scholarship, nothing more. He feels that changing the development model is by far the main factor that will create success for USA. I don't know what model does CANADA follows but look at Europe, guys playing football play for living and after they retire they expect to invest their money in some kind of business. Here in Panama I remember that team players was used to practice in the day and after that they had to work in other kind of jobs (taxy transportation among others). Now this is changing and it's clear that for success you have to devote to this sport, it should not be the way to accomplish other things, it should be the goal itself.

J said...

Anon 12:39 AM

Surely you'd have to agree that Patrice Bernier is just as much a central figure to his club's success as Dwayne De Rosario is with DC United. And he was terrible on Tuesday, while De Rosario has never matched his club level while playing for Canada.

Anonymous said...

Di Vaio is the DP forward there, and Felipe an impressive AM. Bernier's had a good run at club level but is still a supporting cast role player in my eyes.

jonathan said...

I don't think that's an unreasonable way to view things. But Bernier was MLS Player of the Month and Felipe has been somewhat less influential since being pushed wide to accommodate a bigger role for Patrice.

In either case, add Bernier to the list of prominent club players who have under-performed for Canada, like the now-injured De Rosario.