ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, June 11, 2000
Must-win for Cubans
Canucks need draw to advance
In most sports, if you lose in the playoffs, there's always next year to make amends.
But if a soccer side loses a World Cup qualifier, players must sweat out another four years to atone for their lost opportunity. And that's the situation Team Canada faces as it hosts Cuba in the second leg of a two-game qualifier at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex tonight at 7.
"The Gold Cup final, you go into it knowing that, if you win it, you win the whole tournament," said Team Canada striker Carlo Corazzin, who scored a goal in the 2-0 Gold Cup victory over Colombia that shocked the soccer world earlier this year.
"(Tonight's) game, if you win it, you go on to the next round. It's a do-or-die situation. We need to draw or win. If you don't get the right result, it's another four years of waiting. And for some of us, that four years may never come again. So the guys who are in the age group, like myself, are striving to make sure we don't slip."
Corazzin, 28, led the Gold Cup tournament with four goals and was named an all-star. But that impressive triumph will be forever tarnished if Canada fails to cane the Cubans tonight.
"We don't get any credit for winning that tournament," said Canada coach Holger Osieck. "If we don't win (tonight), we don't get a second chance."
Corazzin, who played for the Canadian side that failed to qualify for the 1998 World Cup, is determined to score another major victory in a city where he once played.
"Winnipeg's been great to me," said the former Fury star, who leads the current Canucks with 10 goals. "It would be very special to win this one here."
Corazzin's popularity continues here as the Soccer Spectrum has asked him to donate a Gold Cup jersey (which he will do after the match).
The winner of the series advances to a semifinal tournament against Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. But they've got to smoke the Cubans first.
"We know that Cuba has a very skillful team and they are capable of causing us some concerns," said Canada captain Jason deVos. "So we need to be very disciplined in how we go about the game."
But they certainly won't be overconfident.
"We have a fresh memory from our last game so I think we know what awaits us," Osieck said. "We know we're going to see a very strong Cuban team."
But his own side may be weaker, as neither defender Carl Fletcher (calf) nor midfielder Richard Hastings (thigh) practised yesterday. Osieck, however, said those were just "precautionary measures."
HEADERS: Ticket sales were approaching the 7,000 mark yesterday afternoon ... The game will be broadcast by CTV Sportsnet ... If Canada qualifies, the Canadian Soccer Association will announce sites and dates for the next round, with Winnipeg likely to get the second of three matches in Canada.