ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, June 4, 2000
Canada ready for Cubans
Canada's 13-game unbeaten string in international soccer has been nothing short of wunderbar.
A big part of the national men's team's recent success can be attributed to its style of play, which has been compared to that of the German soccer program.
Canadian coach Holger Osieck, who was an assistant on Germany's World Cup-winning team in 1990, admits he has incorporated some of Germany's tactics into the Canadian system.
"I've tried to introduce a very efficient style of play," said Osieck, who takes his squad into Havana today to face Cuba in Canada's first 2002 World Cup qualifier (8 p.m., Sportsnet). "I want to create a unique Canadian style, but there are some aspects of where I've coached in the past."
Canada, which is 9-0-4 in its past 13 matches, has played hard-nosed defence and shown an ability to pounce on an opponent's mistakes. Canada also has become deadly on set plays.
And the days of kicking the ball down the field and chasing are over.
"Our organization has been tremendous," striker Paul Peschisolido said. "It has certain aspects of the German system. We tend to sit back and not use negative energy chasing balls all over the field. And we've become quite good at the counter-attack."
Canada needs to beat Cuba today or at least tie to put itself in a good position for the return leg of the home-and-home series a week from today at Winnipeg. On paper, the 63rd-ranked Canadians would appear to have the edge over the 75th-ranked Cubans.
The winner of the two-game series advances to the semi-final round of Football Confederation (formerly CONCACAF) qualifying next month and will join Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in one of three groups.
Canada will be missing several key members of its Gold Cup-winning squad today because of injury, including goalkeeper Craig Forrest (hernia) and defender Mark Watson (ankle).
Meanwhile, Tony Menezes, one of Canada's best defenders, is suffering from a leg injury and is questionable.
Midfielder Martin Nash, who has helped set up some of Canada's big goals recently, has a bruised knee but should be able to play today.
While Canada won its two recent exhibition games over Trinidad (1-0) and Honduras (2-1), Osieck said his squad needs to show some improvement if it hopes to defeat the Cubans.
"We have to make the most of our opportunities," Osieck said. "We haven't always been able to do that. But at least we scored some goals the past couple of games, which is encouraging to see."