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Canada in Land of The Giant!

U23’s seek a Guadalajara Miracle

Canadian u23 captain Derek Cornelius celebrates his goal against Honduras. The Canadians are sweating on the Vancouver man’s fitness for this evening’s decisive game.

As Canadian u23 coach, Mauro Biello said in his press-conference yesterday, “We are preparing to play the giant of CONCACAF...”

The former head coach of Montreal Impact is under no illusion as to the enormity of task confronting his young team this evening, but he’s also grateful for the opportunity...

“We talk about probably one of the biggest achievements in Canadian soccer history, to come through and win this game and go on to the Olympics, beating the best team in CONCACAF in their own country.

“But there is no doubt this opportunity is massive for the team and for the country and I think we not only represent the team but a country that is behind us. So for us it’s great to have this opportunity. The players are ready to do everything they can to make this happen.
These stories do happen in sports, there’s a David and Goliath story going on right now, and we’ll do everything we can to make this happen.”

Haiti v Canada - 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying
Canada u23 coach, Mauro Biello has much to ponder, before the Canadians attempt to make history in Guadalajara this evening
Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images

There’s not really even one condition going in Canada’s favour as we approach this truly gargantuan task.

The Mexicans are the best team in the tournament, they’re at home, and have had a day rest more than the Canadians. Not only that, fitness-wise they are better conditioned to start with, their players benefitting from regular league action. Conversely the Canadians, until the tournament began, were totally devoid of match-practise, save for those squad members coming from European clubs.

And that’s not all. While the Mexicans have no World Cup commitments throughout this international break, they have been able to select the best u23 players available to them in their program. The same cannot be said for Canada, who have ten players either called up by their senior squad which crucially IS involved in World Cup qualifiers, or not released by their European clubs, including star-men, Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

Canada also has a sweat on the fitness of captain and centre-back, Derek Cornelius, although signs are that he’ll make it.

There is a good chance we’ll see Sporting Lisbon youngster Lucas Dias start this evening. When he entered the fray in the last game against Honduras he made a difference, giving his flagging team-mates a lift. Biello has been reluctant to start Dias in games so far, due to the player’s fitness levels. Dias’ display last Thursday however has probably cemented his name into the starting line-up.

Honduras v Canada - 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying
Lucas Dias (#20) evades the attentions of Honduras’ Edwin Rodriguez. Dias may find himself in the starting line-up this evening for the first time in this tournament.
Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images

Biello is well aware of the threat coming from Mexico’s strike-force, some of whom lined out for the senior side against Canada in a 3-1 victory in the 2019 Gold Cup.

“We have to deny them the space to operate in, and be very specific in how we attack and put them under pressure in different moments.

“Obviously Canada has never won in Mexico, but this is a tremendous opportunity for us.”
The longer the game goes on, the more physically difficult things will become for the Canadians, however reaching extra-time and the possibility of penalties is something he camp has discussed and prepared for. Goalkeeper, James Pantemis has also declared his readiness should that eventuality occur. “If it happens, I’ll be ready.”

A victory on penalties is not out of the question, however I don’t expect things to get that far. Canada really needs to score first and have something to hold onto. Mexico will play the game very much on the front foot. Canada cannot.

But if the Canucks are to get over the line and make Canadian soccer history, it promises to be a long, long, tiring night, not to mention an epic rearguard action.

Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 21). Recorded Wednesday (24 March), the TBIR team discuss the National Team’s Road to Qatar, the U23s in Mexico, a return for Jason Di Tullio and Florida pre-season plans... Plus all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!

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