This Friday, BC Place is preparing to host a party. Over 50 000 supporters are expected to show up to encourage Team Canada when they take on the Tricolor. Large crowds, excitement and Team Canada are words normally used to describe hockey in this country.
But on Friday, the spotlight is going to be on our national soccer team. Les Rouges are facing a formidable opponent: Mexico. Canada is currently ranked 87th in the world while Mexico is ranked 22nd. Canada has qualified for the FIFA world cup once while Mexico has qualified for 15 of the 18 World Cups. This is not expected to be an easy game for our national squad but the amazing thing about sports is that there is always a chance for the unexpected.
Les Rouges are taking on El Tri Friday March 25th at BC Place. The game will be broadcast on TSN starting at 10pm and this is definitely a game you do not want to miss.
This upcoming match versus Mexico is part of Canada's bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Canada is attempting to qualify out of the CONCACAF zone, which is composed of teams from North and Central America. Currently in group 1 with Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, Canada aims to grab one of the top two spots in the group and advance to the next round which is known as The Hex.
The Hex is composed of the top 2 teams from each of the 3 divisions. Canada is currently in second place in group 1. We are 2 points behind Mexico and 3 points ahead of El Salvador. If Canada makes it to the Hex, it would then play a round robin style tournament with the top seeds from group 2 and 3. The Hex group will probably include some very talented squads like USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.
After the round robin tournament, the top 3 teams from the Hex advance to the FIFA World Cup and the 4th place team will play a 2 leg tournament against the 5th seed from the Asian world cup qualifying division (AFC) for a chance to compete in FIFA 2018.
In this Friday's game versus Mexico, we expect Canadian head coach Benito Floro to field the strongest starting 11 possible. This starting eleven will probably include Atiba Hutchinson, Julian de Guzmàn and Cyle Larin. Hutchinson is probably the best player ever produced by Canada. He is currently playing in the Turkish Super League for Beşiktaş J.K. The 33 year old native of Brampton, Ontario once had a transfer value of 5.2 million dollars. If Canada is to win this Friday, Hutchinson will have to be one of the best players on the pitch. No pressure Atiba.
Julian de Guzmàn, who played for Toronto FC in MLS, is the Canadian captain. De Guzman has 86 starts with the Canadian national team and was the first Canadian to play in the BBVA (first Spanish division). De Guzman started 97 games with La Coruna in Spain. Hopefully, the 34 year old will be able to lead the nation to victory.
Finally, we all know Cyle Larin. The 20 year old, who - like Hutchinson - hails from Brampton, is the first Canadian to be picked first overall in an MLS superdraft. He also won MLS rookie of the year in 2015. If anyone on Team Canada can beat Mexico's defense, it is definitely Larin.
I am really excited to watch Canada take on this formidable Mexican squad in front of thousands of enthusiastic Canucks. I honestly think there is a chance that Benito Floro can lead his squad to victory or at least a draw. If Canada can pull any points from this match, it will greatly bolster our confidence and our chance of making it to the Hex.
After this Friday's game, we will play Mexico again. That match will take place on Tuesday, March 29th in the legendary Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.