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  • Monday, June 12, 2000

    Canucks draw new life

    Advance in World Cup qualifying

    By JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

     Make no mistake, there really was nothing heroic about this result.

     Yes, Team Canada advanced to the next round of World Cup qualifying, but a 0-0 draw with Cuba before 9,021 boisterous supporters at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex last night was just another step on the road back to respectability.

     "It was very positive, but this was just the starting block," said Canada captain Jason deVos. "It's nothing to get too excited about just yet."

     The only reason the Canucks were even playing in this qualifier was because they fared so poorly during the 1998 World Cup qualifying tournament (1-6-3). So, this playoff was akin to playing in a relegation round of Olympic hockey to get back into the A pool.

     "We had to play this unnecessary round and it was tough because it was do or die," said Canadian coach Holger Osieck. "I'm not very familiar with the history, but I thought this was definitely unnecessary.

     "Cuba is a strong team and they played good football. But I really think our team tried to win the game and didn't go for the draw, that's for sure."

     Because Canada defeated Cuba in this two-game series, it advances to a semifinal tournament against Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. The Canadians, who were dubbed Holger's Heroes after winning the Gold Cup, will open play against Trinidad and Tobago in Edmonton on either July 16 or 18th, with Winnipeg hosting a later match against Panama on Oct. 9.

     Former Fury goalkeeper Pat Onstad recorded the much-needed shutout to preserve Canada's edge after winning the first match 1-0 in Havana last week. Canada resorted to defence in the second half after a full-court press failed to produce a goal in the first.

     Canada, ranked 59th on the world stage, extended its unbeaten streak to 15 games as it enters the next round.

     "We've got so much momentum now, it's frightening," said Canada striker Paul Peschisolido, who led the offence. "It's like a freight train.

     "If we keep this up, we'll be in the next World Cup (2002)."

     Odelin Molina had the shutout for Cuba.

     "I think, if we had played like we did (last night) last week in Cuba, it could have been a different result," Cuban coach William Bennett said through an interpreter. "But Canada has a very good defence and that should help them get into the World Cup. I will be cheering for their coach."

     HEADERS: There is a possibility that Winnipeg will also host a match against Mexico in November. However, it's more likely that Toronto will get that one. The Canadian Soccer Association will announce exact dates and locations in Ottawa today ... CTV Sportsnet is scheduled to broadcast all six games ... The Cubans apparently spent Friday night in a Toronto airport to save money on accommodations.



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