This is the biggest week in Canadian Soccer this century. Home and home games against Panama could shape Canada’s World Cup 2014 destiny. Al Dannity looks ahead to these titanic tussles.
Make it count in BMO Field
The 22,000 seater BMO Field in Toronto is unlikely to sell out for the biggest game in living memory for Team Canada. There will however still be a raucous crowd in attendance hoping the Men’s team can take inspiration from their Women’s Olympic odyssey. A win on Friday night would put Canada in the driver’s seat to make the final stage of qualification for Brazil 2014. Defender Kevin McKenna described this simply as “the biggest game in a long time for Canadian soccer.”
Stephen Hart, in his second spell in charge of Canada, knows his side can’t afford to get lost in the occasion. There’s a job to be done and heads need to be focussed. “Right now, what’s most important is the three points. Not putting on a show but being very business-like and if we can do that there’s a huge cherry at the end of it,” said Hart. Panama holds a two-point lead in Group C over Canada, with Honduras three points behind Hart’s team in third place. With the top two to progress, every result at this stage matters. With a road game at Honduras still to come, Canada needs to get positive results in their home-and-home games with the group leaders. A four-point haul, winning in BMO Field and drawing in Panama City, is possible but even a home win and a road loss would be a boost to Canada’s hopes.
About that huge cherry
There are still four games to go in this group stage of qualification but if Canada progresses their hopes of making it to Brazil could increase dramatically. The Canadians would go into the brutal Hexagonal stage, featuring glamorous home-and-homes with USA and Mexico. The current squad however could see some fresh blood join the squad if they progress. Steven Vitoria, of Estoril in Portugal, has expressed interest in suiting up for Canada. The ever-on-the-fence Jonathan de Guzman, of Swansea City in the English Premier League, might finally declare for Canada if a realistic shot at the World Cup is on the table. While it may seem selfish on the part of both players to wait and see with their status, there’s no doubt that both would be significant upgrades to Hart’s roster.
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