Loss must not dash Canadian World Cup hopesIn spite of loss in Panama, qualification for the Hex and the 2014 dream is still possible for Canada
by Henrik Lonne | Wednesday, September 12, 2012
With the success of the Canadian Women’s National Team at the Olympics a buzz around national team soccer has started in Canada. With the two important qualifiers against Panama, the CSA made a smart move to use the first game at BMO Field to celebrate the women and attach the passion and support for the women’s team to the men’s program. This seems wise as the Canadian men’s team received a crowd of 17,586, which was predominantly pro-Canadian. The team reacted well to the support and managed to get a 1-0 victory off a cheeky Dwayne De Rosario goal.
While they wasted many chances and at times allowed the Panamanians a chance on goal, overall Canada were on top and held the game. The fact they were able to win bodes well for the program as this is the type of game that would have usually been lost in the past – in front of a small crowd.
In the run up to the away game in Panama, Canada was given the American treatment of partying and noise making outside of their hotel. While plenty of time could be spent on talking about whether or not this was acceptable or fair, this is not the most important aspect about this attempt to unsettle the CanMNT. Had Canada not been considered a threat, the Panamanians wouldn’t have felt the need to disturb the players and their sleep.
Then came Tuesday night in Panama City. In the run-up the game had gotten plenty of attention in the mainstream media as well as having created a genuine buzz around the team. But they lost. The defense that had been playing so well failed and yet again the offense didn’t manage to produce. A general consensus seems to be that Canada underperformed and that the sum was lesser than its parts (CSN, Toronto Sun, MLSsoccer.com). This seems disappointing after the buzz that it generated, but it must be put it into perspective. Canada hasn’t qualified for the Hex in this millennium, and while the pressure is now on the team to get results against Cuba home and Honduras away, the team is still alive, and if we can take anything out of the game in Panama it is that we know that Canada can perform a lot better than that.
In spite of the defeat, the Canadian men still have the chance to go to Brazil. A win over Cuba is expected, so points away against Honduras could ensure qualification to the Hex. This will require stellar performances in both games and an offence that actually finishes the chances it produces. Some people might jump off the bandwagon that they got on at the first Panama game, but if Canada is to get the results they need, the support of the nation would be inspirational.
Getting into the Hex would be a tremendous achievement. Not only has the road to the World Cup become shorter this time around as the 4th placed team will play against a team from Oceania, which should be beatable for Canada and the CONCACAF #4, but in terms of building support for the game. The fact that the tournament is taking place in Brazil, means that it will be broadcasted in prime time to Canadian audiences. This will certainly increase awareness and support for the national team and for the sport and could be a defining moment for soccer in Canada, as now, unlike after ’86, are Canadian teams in a stable league. That combination of factors could take the sport to the next level in Canada.
The Canadian team still controls its own fate, but it requires focus, peak performance and support from its fans. And that means even American fans should support CanMNT’s efforts to qualify for the Hex, as a rise in the quality and popularity of Canadian soccer will benefit both countries. Allez les rouges!