I'm not much for gambling. But I did sign up for an account through one online sportsbook because doing so would give me access to streaming coverage of Bundesliga matches. I log in and place a small wager or two every now and then, but for the most part my account balance hasn't strayed far from the minimum deposit required to sign up.
But last Tuesday, in anticipation of Canada's biggest match in some time, I went for an emotional hedge. That is, by betting against Canada in Honduras, I provided a small cash reward to hedge against the emotional downfall of a Canada loss.
To be honest, I should have gone way bigger. The excitement of Canada advancing to the hex would have been worth losing far more, while winning enough to buy a six-pack hardly hedges anything at all.
I can't help but feeling that this is in some small way my fault.
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Honduras 8, Canada 1
If you're a reader of this blog, then this nearly week-old result is not news to you. Having provided themselves with the best opportunity to make the hex in over a decade, the team and its players failed in the most spectacular fashion possible.
And there was hardly any drama to it. I watched as the team started brightly, and were a more talented man than Tosaint Ricketts to receive Nik Ledgerwood's cross just three minutes into the match, it was probably 1-0 Canada. Instead, four minutes later Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault combined to make a real mess of an innocuous bouncing ball and it was quickly 1-0 Honduras.
I wasn't surprised. From that moment, the writing was on the wall. I didn't even bother to watch the last 80 minutes of the match. Instead, I stepped out onto the porch with a couple of magazines, and enjoyed the last nice fall day of an October in Winnipeg.
I feel as though I made the right choice.
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Who is to blame?
A Toronto Sun article on Stephen Hart's resignation contains a poll with the question "Who is to blame for Canada's 8-1 loss to Honduras?" The readers divided the blame between the players (57%), the coach (1%), and both (42%).
It's hard to understand how anyone could select anything other than that last option. The match was such a comprehensive failure that nobody can come out of it untainted. Hart's prompt exit suggests that even he would recognize that he could have done more to avoid such an embarrassment.
The players' failings were there for one and all to see. There is clearly a mental issue that this team has not been able to overcome when playing in these hostile environments. 8-1 may not tell the true tale, as the team more or less checked out after three goals against, but it would be hard to credit any player's performance in that match, with the possible exception of team stalwart Atiba Hutchinson. A back line that had been mostly good until now was shredded. It was not helped by a clearly-past-it Mike Klukowski going in for the ill Ante Jazic, but it was the ungodly performances of Hainault and McKenna that were truly shocking. And the players weren't any better elsewhere on the pitch.
But even the fact that Klukowski was put into that position falls on Hart. There is no excuse for not starting Marcel de Jong, the team's best-pedigreed player (considering playing level and playing time). There is also no reason that Hart should have forsaken the 4-3-3, the only formation the team has known under his control, in both of the team's most difficult matches (Panama away, Honduras away). And the team's psychological failings must to some extent rest at his feet as well.
An underachieving generation of players, including Lars Hirschfeld, Kevin McKenna, Mike Klukowski, Ante Jazic, Patrice Bernier, Julian de Guzman, Dwayne De Rosario, Olivier Occean and Iain Hume, and some more peripheral players, have all likely played their last meaningful matches for Canada. Some of these have had excellent professional careers but have not done themselves much credit with their international performances.
A sporting axiom is that it is easier to change the coach than the players. In the next few years, Canada will have to do both.
To be continued...