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  • Friday, August 18, 2000

    Osieck not ready to concede defeat

     TORONTO (CP) -- Canadian soccer coach Holger Osieck says he is disappointed, but not devastated by the national team's failure in the current round of World Cup qualifying.

     And Osieck said regardless of whether Canada fails to advance, he plans to serve out the remaining two years of his contract.

     While he isn't ready to concede defeat in Canada's bid to make the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, Osieck acknowledged "our situation is definitely not a very pleasant one, that's for sure.

     "But there is still a chance and we have to go for that. We are not clinically dead, we still have to go on," he said Friday.

     But if the worst happens, he is staying put.

     "My contract goes another two years. I definitely want to fulfil that contract. Even if we're not successful right now I wouldn't consider leaving.

     "Apart from the national team I have already put a lot of effort into Canadian soccer," added Osieck, who also serves as technical director for the Canadian Soccer Association, "and tried to launch a lot of things on different levels. And I don't want to just let it go like that.

     "And apart from that I think there's still a very attractive program ahead of us -- there's the Confederations Cup, there's Copa America.

     "So still, if the worst should happen, it's not the end of the road."

     Asked if he was disappointed at his team's 0-2-1 record in qualifying play, Osieck said: "I am, but definitely I am not devastated. When you enjoy success, you also have to accept losses. That's part of the game.

     "I'm still in the position that I have to influence our players, our team. If I can't inspire them any more because of being too negative or too disappointed, then it doesn't make sense.

     "We have to see how we can improve, how we can do better in the next upcoming games so we can forget what happened in the past." Canada is 12-8-4 under Osieck since he was hired in September 1998 and has lost just twice in its last 18 games. It is ranked 56th in the world and listed among the top movers this year in the FIFA world rankings.

     Paul Stalteri will miss the Sept. 3 game in Trinidad and Tobago after picking up his second yellow card of the round in the Mexico game. While the Toronto midfielder will be missed, his hot head won't be. He was captured giving captain Jason de Vos the finger during the game in Mexico.

     Osieck said he had missed the episode, but a CSA official confirmed that the offending finger was aimed at his teammate and captain.

     Trinidad and Tobago leads Group C in the CONCACAF semifinal qualifying round with a maximum nine points from a 3-0-0 record. Mexico stands second with six points and a 2-1-0 record after its 2-0 home win over Canada on Tuesday.

     Canada and Panama languish in the basement with one point from identical 0-2-1 records.

     The top two teams from the group, one of three in CONCACAF, will advance to the final round of qualifying in the region.

     The result means Canada virtually has no margin of error in its remaining three games, and it will need help from fellow doormat Panama to take points from its rivals.

     The maximum number of points Canada can collect is 10 and the next game, Sept. 3 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, might determine its fate.

     With Mexico expected to hammer visiting Panama earlier that day, a loss or tie would eliminate the Canadians, who would then be able to finish with no more than seven points.

     Canada has not scored in its last four games and firepower has long been a problem with the national team. Osieck believes there are under-20 prospects who may help out down the line in the short-term. And the plan is to identify even younger talent, with an eye to shaping them for the future. Asked if the February Gold Cup win was a curse as well as a blessing because of the raised expectations that came with it, Osieck said he only saw the bright side of the victory.

     "It was very important for Canadian football, for many reasons. First of all, people now take notice of our team and of football in general. Wherever I go, people talk to me. That hadn't been the case in the first couple of months when I was in the country.

     "You see it from all the responses on the Internet. There's a lively discussion going on that is definitely good for the sport because now we get recognized."



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