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    CHRONO SPORTS

  • Thursday, August 10, 2000

    National team needs a striker

    By BOB MCMAHON -- Winnipeg Sun

     What do Jamie Lowery and Gerry Gray have in common? Yes they're former members of the Canadian national team but more specifically they've accounted for the only two goals scored by Canada in Mexico in the last 20 years.

     During that time Canada has made the trip south eight times, has one tie, seven losses and has conceded an astounding 32 goals.

     There are many places that Holger Osieck would rather be than the mammoth Azteca Stadium come next Tuesday afternoon facing a partisan capacity crowd of 100,000, oppressive heat, altitude, and needing a result to put the Holger World Cup Express back on track.

     The Canadian squad has scored only once in four World Cup qualifiers, that from defender Jason deVos against Cuba and since have gone more than 300 minutes without a Canuck goal.

     An opening game 2-0 loss to a Trinidad and Tobago side that shelled out a lesson in chance, along with a 0-0 away tie with Panama, made for a poor start but the shock 1-0 Trinidad win over Mexico was the real capper.

     A Mexican win would have put Canada only two points behind the Caribbean country with a September head-to-head to come but Russell Latapy's late winner put Trinidad in a great position to grab one of the two priceless qualifying spots.

     The results that Canada need next week is a Panamanian win in Port of Spain and at least a tie in Mexico City.

     That's a tall order for a Canadian team that's generally inexperienced at the cutthroat level of World Cup qualifying.

     It's obvious recent opponents have done their homework and pay special attention to Canada's set pieces, free kicks, corners, thrown-ins -- that generate the majority of their goals.

     Just watch how tightly marked Jason deVos is at corner-kicks. Canada is forced to look for goals from open play and that is where the real problems lie.

     The midfield that has operated in qualifying to date lacks consistent goal scorers and even then they rarely get forward into the penalty area where the goal scoring opportunities are.

     Marc Bircham of Millwall has been recalled to the squad for the Mexican game after a lengthy injury and when fit gives Osieck more attacking midfield options.

     To start Bircham on Tuesday after being out for five months would be a gamble but one that the coach may take.

     Up front the starting twosome of Paul Peschisolido and Carlos Corazzin is lightweight and rarely trouble well organized defences.

     Corazzin works hard and is excellent in the air but lacks the speed and quickness required at the international level.

     MOVED FORWARD OCCASIONALLY

     Peschisolido's touch around the goal has deserted him, one goal since October 1996 doesn't cut it and although David Xausa has been moved forward occasionally to add some size, his lack of a goal-scoring touch lets him down.

     The pace of Anderlecht's Tomasz Radzinski, a regular scorer in the Belgian league, has never been replaced since he dropped out of the international squad three years ago.

     Is there a goal scorer in Canada's future? It doesn't look like it at the moment.

     None of the feeder squads at the under-17, under-20 and Olympic levels have averaged more than a goal a game this year and the Olympic team was shut out in three of their five Sydney qualifiers.

     So all you community club coaches out there think twice before moving your star goal scorer into midfield or defence, you might just have what Canadian soccer needs.



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