ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, June 8, 2000
Canucks will crank up tempo
When Pele coined the phrase "the beautiful game" he couldn't have had World Cup qualifying games in mind.
After last weekend's sterile 1-0 win over Peru, Brazilian coach Wanderley Luxemburgo didn't hesitate to let the fans know that if they were looking for flair and entertainment they were looking in the wrong place.
"We will qualify for the World Cup but we will do it suffering and hurting," he said, and that neatly sums up the pressure that countries are under in their quest for a place in the 2002 finals.
So where does that leave the likes of Canada? Well pretty much in the same boat based on the 1-0 win in Havana last weekend. It's all about qualifying and Canada, after an effective and unadventurous display, is now in a great position to capture a place in the next round with Trinidad & Tobago, Panama and Mexico in Group C. Avoid defeat in the return leg against Cuba this Sunday in Winnipeg, kick-off 7 p.m., and Canada will host these teams July 16, Oct. and Nov. 12.
Although it's tempting to think the Canadians will throw caution to the wind, after all a draw will suffice; all out attack is foreign to this workmanlike, disciplined squad. With the exception of a Cuban header cleared off the line by Jason Bent the lightweight Cuban forward line never came close to scoring last Sunday. They looked comfortable on the ball but lacked the pace and penetration to trouble the Canadian defenders.
Coach Holger Osieck will take advantage of the cooler and drier conditions and will have his side play a higher tempo game than they could in humid Havana. Canada will push players further forward to pressurize and unsettle the relatively inexperienced Cuban squad and the green flat surface on Waverley will be a welcome relief to the demolition site they played on in the first-leg.
Complacency is perhaps the only enemy for the Canadian squad.
The previous week's visitors, Honduras, thumped Haiti 4-0 and is certain to move to the next round joining El Salvador, 1998 qualifiers Jamaica and little St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It was expected that most of the summer's transfer action would take place after Euro 2000 but already there has been a number of high profile and pricey moves. Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to Chelsea from Atletico Madrid for $36 million ... Striker Gabriel Batistuta to Roma from Fiorentina ... UEFA Cup winning coach Fatih Terim has left Galatasaray for Fiorentina ... French World Cup winning goalkeeper Fabian Barthez signed for Manchester United from Monaco for $23 million ... Borussia Dortmund paid Juventus $20 million for Nigerian defender Sunday Oliseh ... Glasgow Celtic secured a new manager when Leicester City's Martin O'Neil agreed to sign on.
UEFA Champions League runners-up Valencia look set to lose the core of their side ... Milan is after the midfield pairing of Francisco Farinos and Gerard ... For months reports have had Argentine striker Claudio Lopez moving to Lazio, but to date it hasn't happened, and now Inter is after striker Kily Gonzalez ... Also on Milan's shopping list is Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, currently with Corinthians ... French utility defender Christian Karembeu is considering a move to Middlesborough from Real Madrid and Barcelona striker Dani is also a Boro' target ... Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly indicated that he might move to Manchester United ... Arsenal look set to sign French winger Robert Pires from Marseilles.