ALSO ON SLAM!
Tuesday, June 6, 2000
Hot Canadians still streaking
Canada's men's soccer team travels from the sun and cigars of exotic Havana to the menace of blood-thirsty mosquitoes in Winnipeg this week.
But even the capital of Manitoba can seem like Margaritaville to a squad that hasn't tasted defeat in almost a year.
The national team, 10-0-4 in its past 14 international matches, arrives in Winnipeg today to prepare for the return leg of its World Cup qualifying playoff against Cuba on Sunday.
Canada kicked off its bid to make the field of 32 at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea with a tough 1-0 win over the Cubans this past Sunday.
Canada needs only a tie this weekend to advance to the semi-final round of qualifying in the Football Confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The Canadians were in a confident mood yesterday.
"Considering all of the circumstances, it was a good win," Canadian coach Holger Osieck said from Havana. "It leaves all of our options open for Sunday. However, I don't want to take any chances, so we'll be trying to win."
Canada, ranked 63rd in the FIFA world rankings, easily could have found several excuses if it had lost Sunday to 75th-ranked Cuba.
Canada was missing several starters from its Gold Cup-winning squad, including keeper Craig Forrest. And the pitch at the Pedro Marrero Stadium was in terrible shape.
Yet, the Canadians again found a way to win under adverse conditions.
The goal against Cuba came off a set play when midfielder Martin Nash's throw-in near the penalty area was headed backward by striker Carlo Corrazin to defender and captain Jason de Vos. De Vos, who had curled away from several Cuban defenders moments before the throw-in, was left unmarked in the box and easily struck the ball into the back of the Cuban goal.
"We definitely wouldn't get a prize for beauty," Osieck said, adding that he worked on that particular play in practice last week. "It's all a matter of efficiency."
The win extended Canada's record under Osieck to 12-3-5. Canada's last loss was July 9 of last year in a friendly against Saudi Arabia in Fullerton, Calif.