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    CHRONO SPORTS

  • Thursday, July 27, 2000

    Road to World Cup rocky for Canada

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- The Canadian Press

     TORONTO -- Canada has four games left in the current round of World Cup qualifying so it is too early to write off its chances of advancing to the final stage.

     But a close look at the numbers suggests the future could look very bleak very soon.

     Remember only the two top teams in Canada's group, which includes Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, move on to the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

     Trinidad and Tobago's surprising 1-0 win over Mexico last Sunday means that T&T are in the driver's seat with two home games remaining.

     Mexico is a wild card, playing poorly but with the advantage of having all three home games remaining.

     Canada is deep in the hole after its opening 2-0 loss at home to Trinidad and Tobago. A draw in Panama didn't help much and the Canadians are mired in a scoring drought with one goal in their last four games.

     Here is a look at what lies ahead:

     Aug. 15-16

     Canada (0-1-1) plays at Mexico (1-1-0) while Panama (0-1-1) visits Trinidad and Tobago (2-0-0).

     Canada's record against Mexico is 0-7-1 in Mexico City where the Canadians have been outscored 27-2.

     "Even though they're going through a bad run right now, they're not going to lose any games at home," former national team coach Bob Lenarduzzi said of the Mexicans.

     Mexico is all but unbeatable at Azteca Stadium, an imposing stadium where the altitude sucks the air out of visitors.

     "You need at least 14 days to acclimatize. Anything less and you haven't done anything," said Lenarduzzi. "How are you going to get that? You've got guys playing in Europe and it's tough enough to get them away for three or four or five days in advance of the game."

     The Canadians plan to arrive in Mexico the Sunday before the Tuesday game.

     The Mexicans, looking to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the Canadians, have scheduled the weekday game for 2 p.m. local time.

     Mexico's two other home games, both on the weekend, are slated for noon, when the heat and smog are at their highest.

     Canada beat a sluggish Mexico team 2-1 in February at the Gold Cup in California, a loss that should serve as another incentive for the Mexicans.

     If Canada loses to Mexico on Tuesday, Canada would have to win its remaining three games and hope other teams lose key matches.

     Give Mexico a win and T&T at least a tie. That leaves T&T with seven points, Mexico six, Panama two and Canada one.

     Sept. 3

     Canada travels to Port-of-Spain while Mexico entertains Panama. Credit Mexico with three points automatically, increasing their total to nine.

     If Canada ties or loses against Trinidad and Tobago, Holger Osieck's team would have no more than two points with just two games remaining. That means a possible total of eight points from the whole round.

     A tie Sept. 3 would give T&T eight points with two games (in Mexico and in Panama) remaining. And if Trinidad beats Panama in the Aug. 16 game, T&T could emerge from a tie with Canada with 10 points.

     Canada could be eliminated with two games left to play.

     The Keys

     Canada has to win in Trinidad and Tobago and hope that Mexico falters at home. If the Mexicans don't maximize their points in Mexico City, Canada has a slight chance to have a run at them.

     ------

     Notes: Still no official word from Oldham Athletic on signing Carlo Corazzin ... The Oxford Mail reports that Oxford United has given defender Mark Watson until Friday to make up his mind about rejoining the club.



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