Canada Looks to Follow Big Win
Canada’s national soccer team attempts to take another major step in its road to qualify for the 2014 World Cup Tuesday in Panama. After earning a 1-0 victory over Panama last week at Toronto’s BMO field, the Canadians are now halfway through this qualifying round and need four points from the remaining three games to go through. The last time Canada advanced to the final qualifying round for the World Cup was in 1998. Panama is set as a -117 favorite with Canada at +310 and the draw at +215.
Panama’s Home-Field Advantage
Panama’s supporters aren’t going to make it easy on the Canadians. About 31,100 fans are expected to be at Estadio Rommel Fernandez and if this week’s antics are any indication, the Canadians should expect a hostile crowd. More than 100 Panama supporters showed up at Canada’s hotel on Sunday night with horns, drums, and loud music in an effort to keep the team’s players from getting a good night’s sleep. They also blocked the team’s bus on its way to a scheduled training session. “We’re footballers. We have to get used to this and playing in these environments – especially in CONCACAF,” Canadian defender David Edgar told the Canadian Press. “If we don’t thrive on playing in atmospheres like this, then why are you playing the game?”
Lineup Changes and Strategy
Canada will be without at least two key players Tuesday. Striker Olivier Occean is out due to injury and didn’t make the trip to Panama, while midfielder Will Johnson is suspended. Canadian coach Stephen Hart expects a more aggressive attack from Panama than they saw last week.
Weather and Field Conditions
While the crowd may not be friendly, the pitch at Estadio Rommel Fernandez will be a welcomed sight for the Canadian side. Canada has played at a cricket oval and a converted baseball diamond so far in qualifying, not to mention a dilapidated soccer stadium in Cuba. Estadio Rommel Fernandez was renovated in 2009 and the Canadians have been raving about the field’s quality. Meteorologists expect a chance of isolated thunderstorms and temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius – much cooler conditions than what Canada has faced earlier in qualifying.
Canada should be happy playing for a draw here. Missing a couple of key pieces from the lineup and facing a major test with an unfriendly crowd in the background, the Canadians will be happy to come away with the single point. “If you get the result you’ll be glad for it,” Hart told reporters. “I really hope we put down a good performance and let the players know we can play for the result. If we win, so be it. If we tie, it’s sort of in the nature of playing away from home.”
Final score: Canada 1, Panama 1.