For the second time in 5 days, Canada confronted Mexico in World Cup qualifying. On Tuesday, the game took place at the legendary Estadio Azteca but the end result was the same as on Friday. Canada lost their second consecutive game to Mexico. This time the final score was 2-0 which is marginally better than Friday's 3-0 loss at BC Place.
Before even touching the lush grass of Estadio Azteca, the odds were stacked against Canada. Our best performance ever at the famed stadium was a 1-1 draw in 1980. Since 1972, the combined score of all matches between Canada and Mexico at Azteca is 27 to 2 for Mexico. These two consecutive losses are not the end of the road for Canada's World Cup dreams but Canada's final two games versus Honduras and El Salvador are now critical.
The match against Honduras will be played in Honduras on September 2nd. The game versus El Salvador will be held in Canada on September 6th in a venue to be determined by Soccer Canada and Benito Floro.
Early on in Tuesday's match, an extremely difficult task became nearly impossible when Canada conceded the early penalty. In the 16th minute, Doneil Henry was caught out of position when Mexico whipped in a cross. The fullback was caught on the wrong side of Marco Fabián and to prevent the goal, Henry shoved Fabián to the ground. The Mexican captain Andrés Guadrado made no mistake burying the penalty for Mexico's first goal of the game. Milan Borjan did not have a chance of reaching the kick even though he dove the right way.
The next nail in Canada's coffin was hammered home in the 37th minute. Fabián was the recipient of a cleverly played ball from Paul Aguilar. The orchestrator of Mexico's first goal let fly a powerful strike. The ball squeaked under Borjan but luckily the ball hit the post.
The real problem for Canada was that during the save Borjan injured his left hand and asked to be substituted. In the 40th minute, Kenny Stamatopoulos took over in goal. This was a huge loss for Canada because Borjan had been playing outstandingly. He was definitely the best Canadian on the pitch Friday night at BC Place. It also meant that Canada only had two substitutions remaining.
Mexico put the game out of reach for Canada in the stoppage time of the first half. This goal was the result of a team wide defensive breakdown that started when Fabián whipped a cross into the box. First, Will Johnson attempted to head the cross but he missed and the ball bounced off his back and continued towards the penalty box.
Next, it was Atiba Hutchinson's turn to miss. He completely aired on his header and the ball finally fell to Jesus Corona. Corona put on a show by skilfully spinning around Johnson who was embarrassed for the second time on the play. Corona completed his masterful manoeuvre by rifling the ball past Stamatopoulos. The keeper was absolutely helpless to prevent Mexico from tacking a 2-0 lead.
Learn from mistakes
The Canadian men have definitely suffered their worst two losses of the qualifying campaign but they were not unexpected losses. What disappointed me the most out of these two matches was Canada's inability to score goals.
During the group stage play, Canada has scored 1 goal in 360 minutes of play. If Canada is to advance further in the tournament, it is essential that Benito Floro find a way for his team to put the ball in the back of the net. As it currently stands, Canada would not progress to the final level of qualifying.
Canada and Honduras both have 4 points but Honduras leads on goal differential. The most important game of group play will be the one in Honduras on September 2nd. The winner of that game will probably advance. Between now and the match in Honduras, Canada will have to iron out their defensive mistakes and improve on their finishing if they are to have a chance of moving on.