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  • Monday, June 5, 2000

    Canadian captain says team can play better

     (CP) -- Their work done in Cuba, the Canadian men's soccer team took it easy by their Havana hotel pool Monday before flying home to Toronto.
     
     But they know their job isn't finished. And they also realize they can play better than they did in Sunday's 1-0 win over the Cubans.
     
     The two teams meet again Sunday in Winnipeg with the aggregate winner advancing to the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
     
     "We didn't play well," captain Jason deVos said bluntly from Havana on Monday. "We certainly were affected by the conditions -- the heat, the playing surface wasn't the greatest. That took its toll on us in the first half.
     
     "We were a little bit disjointed the first 20 minutes. But once we settled in and got the goal (by deVos, late in the first half), I think it was a bit of a relief for us and we went about basically trying to contain Cuba and not let them score."
     
     But deVos also believes people should give the Cubans their due.
     
     "It'll definitely be an exciting game (Sunday). They are no slouches, they've got some good players. They're technically very competent and we'll have to be on our toes to make sure we don't slip up. But I'm quite confident that we can go there (Winnipeg) and get the win we need."
     
     In fact, deVos believes Canada can post another shutout while scoring more than one goal in Winnipeg.
     
     The Canadian side has looked subpar in its last three games, although two were meaningless exhibitions. DeVos says part of the reason is that it takes a while for the team to gel when players are coming from all corners.
     
     The Canadian captain points to the Gold Cup -- which Canada won -- noting while the team defended well from the outset "it wasn't until the latter stages of the tournament that we started to impose ourselves on the other teams. So there's certainly a settling-in period that has to take place.
     
     "And I think it's very easy for people to overlook countries like Cuba and countries on paper that we should beat easily. But all credit to the Cubans, they have some very good players.
     
     "Tactically they might not be as aware as we are but technically they're very good players. They're very skilful and they have that natural flair that we seem not to be able to develop as much in our country."
     
     The winning goal Sunday came as a result of an adjustment to the Cuban tactics. The well-prepared Cubans knew that the six-foot-four deVos is a threat in the air on set plays and so had a man grabbing him at every opportunity.
     
     So striker Carlo Corazzin went to the near post instead to head Martin Nash's long throw-in while deVos peeled away towards the other post.
     
     "It kind of caught them by surprise," deVos said. "Carlo did very well to win the flick on, it came to me and I just had to side-foot it into the net.
     
     "I think they all expected me to be going for the first ball and when I spun around to the second post, I don't think they knew what to do. It kind of caught them by surprise, which is what we intended to do."
     
     While Sunday's conditions were relatively benign for an away game, the Canadians are looking forward to better player conditions and a friendlier crowd in Winnipeg.
     
     "I would certainly expect us to play better," deVos said. "We never really dictated the game to them. We sort of allowed them to have free possession of the ball around the halfway line, which didn't cause us any problems because they weren't in a dangerous area.
     
     "But I think in Winnipeg we'll be able to control the ball a lot more. The conditions will suit us. The field we've already played on, so we know what to expect, and the climate will be more to our suiting as well.
     
     "So I would expect is to go out there and try and dictate the game a little bit more to them and hopefully score a few goals in the first half and put the game beyond doubt."
     
     The team leaves today for Winnipeg.



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