ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, June 8, 2000
Canadians relaxed in advance of Cuba rematchWINNIPEG (CP) -- It's a ritual Holger Osieck has enjoyed since Day One as Canadian soccer coach.
Taking shots at his goalies during practice.
Thursday was no different as the Canadian team returned to practice in preparation for Sunday's second leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff against Cuba.
While 15 other players took part in a leisurely passing drill on a breezy, sunny afternoon at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex, the 51-year-old Osieck banged one ball after another at goalie Pat Onstad.
Onstad dove left, Onstad dove right. Balls banged off the post. And more than a few had to be retrieved from the back of the net.
"He challenged me," Osieck, who retired as a player in 1979, said with a broad smile after practice. "He was talking about some injury that I'm suffering from and I said 'I'll show you how fit I'm in.'
"In the zoo, there's a sign 'Don't tease the monkees,"' he added with a laugh.
"I did all right at the beginning," Onstad said in self-defence. "He just keeps going until he starts scoring, until the 'keepers get tired. When the 'keepers are exhausted, he keeps picking the corners, it makes it difficult for us.
"But I always enjoy it. I gave him a little challenge today. He took me up on it."
Good-natured drills aside, Canada's challenge is to put Cuba away Sunday. The Canadians are halfway there after a 1-0 win last Sunday in Havana.
The Cubans have to win this time out or score more than one goal and force an aggregate tie to advance. Away goals count double in the event of an aggregate tie so a 2-1 Cuban win Sunday, for example, would be enough to overtake Canada.
A 1-0 Cuba victory would result in an aggregate tie of 1-1 with both teams having an away goal. That would prompt two 15-minute overtime halves and, if that resolves nothing, penalty kicks.
Osieck, by the way, doesn't believe in practising penalties, on the grounds that it is impossible to recreate the pressure situation of a spot kick during a game.
He also believes his team can take care of Cuba without them.
A victory over Cuba and Canada advances to the 12-country semifinal round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Canada would join Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in one of three round-robin groups.
Six teams will move on from the semifinal round to decide which three countries will represent the region at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.
Three players missed practice Thursday: forward Garret Kusch (a knock to the knee), defender-wingback Carl Fletcher (calf) and defender-midfielder Richard Hastings (slight thigh pull). All three should be ready Sunday if needed.
Osieck opted for a more demanding tactical practice in the morning and a relaxed eight-a-side mini-game on half the pitch in the afternoon.
"I just wanted to give them some psychological boost, to have fun, to enjoy the game, to let it go," he explained. "On a smaller field, they should score a lot of goals, build up some confidence."
It's fun unless you're in goal, of course.
"I didn't really enjoy myself,' Onstad said with a wry smile. "I was picking too many balls out of the net."
Notes: Canadian midfielder Nick Dasovic, who missed six months this season with an ankle injury, has lost his work permit with St. Johnstone of the Scottish Premier League. Dasovic isn't quite sure why although it appears the British guidelines regarding permits have changed somewhat. He is confident he will win it back this summer on appeal ... Midfielder Robbie Aristodemo may get a chance to train with the Dallas Burn of Major League Soccer after the Cuba series.