• Daniel Squizzato

      As a kid, Squizz spent a lot of time playing soccer, writing and getting overly excited about frivolous things. Not much has changed: he still plays (badly), he still writes (having been published in outlets such as Maclean's and The Globe & Mail) and still has plenty of irrational passion (just wait until the next time the men's national team plays against Honduras).

    • Grant Surridge

      Grant has no soccer playing career to speak of, and probably hasn't been following Canadian soccer as long as you have, but he does spend vast amounts of time reading about soccer online. A proud, self-loathing ex-Winnipeger, Grant also supports Chelsea FC. He writes about the Canadian mens' national team, as well as Canada's rivals in Central America and the Caribbean.
    • Forget Honduras (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the draw)

      Forget whether Stephen Hart is the best choice as head coach. Forget whether David Hoilett will ever choose to play for his nation of birth. Forget all the ongoing, seemingly implacable worries about a lack of a proper youth development system.

      The single biggest factor in determining Canada's chances of making the 2014 World Cup was always going to be how we made out in the qualifying draw.

      See, here's the thing about getting to the big dance, for any country: You don't need to be one of the 32 best teams in the world. Not by a long shot. You just need to find a way to maneuver out of your continental qualifying zone through a combination of luck, good timing and yes, of course, some skill.

      Canada has the skill to hold its own with the middling powers in CONCACAF. The timing is yet to be seen. But on Saturday, we finally got some good luck.

      The fact that we're suddenly ranked 105th in the world shouldn't throw anyone off. The FIFA rankings don't come on stone tablets from Mount Sinai; they're the output of some arcane algorithm devised by sporting bureaucrats. It's supremely arrogant (and is the sort of hubris that has bitten Canadian supporters in the ass on multiple occasions), but it's almost certainly true to say that despite the shared residency in the 100s neighbourhood of the world rankings, Canada has nothing to worry about in its first round of qualifying, against St. Kitts, Puerto Rico and St. Lucia.

      The feces hits the fan (figuratively and, based on historical precedent, perhaps literally) in the semi-final round when, for the third straight qualifying campaign, we've drawn the bane of my existence, the Honduran men's national soccer team.

      Naturally, my mind instantly crafted the hypothetical scenario wherein a hearty troupe of Canadian supporters is forced to endure the ignominy of seeing their squad eliminated from World Cup contention with a dispiriting loss on home soil, deluged on all sides with abuse (and possibly piss bags) from Honduran fans crammed into Stade Saputo in Montreal.

      But after hyperventilating into the nearest paper bag for a few moments, possibly several hours, I came around to the conclusion being drawn by most other Canadian supporters: This draw was a good thing.

      We've got Cuba, who were a joke in this year's Gold Cup, losing their games 5-0, 5,0 and 6-1. A few players defected to the U.S. and I'm sure Declan Hill's spidey sense was going off like mad during the whole tournament. But if some shady loser in a smoke-filled den in Singapore wants to pay off the Cubans to take the fall against Canada in 2014 qualifying, well, that'll just help balance the karmic ledger when it comes to dubious backroom shenanigans.

      As for Honduras and Panama, we just need to be better than one of them to make the final CONCACAF group, a.k.a. "the hex". Sorry, let me rephrase: We don't need to be objectively "better" than them, since measures of quality can't really be applied to national teams, which play infrequently with continuously fluid rosters. So what I actually mean is: The roster we assemble for a brief period during next summer/fall needs to outperform the roster one of those teams assembled during the same time span.

      That, folks, is distinctly possible. Canada was mere minutes away from a win over Panama in the Gold Cup (a result undone by turtling defensively and then buckling under the 20 subsequent minutes of sustained pressure at game's end). And, as you'll recall, our last result against Honduras was a 2-1 victory.

      Let's say, for argument's sake, we go through to the hex along with, ugh, Honduras. That, most likely, sets up a final round with Canada, Honduras, Jamaica and Costa Rica scrambling for one and a half spots. The presumption here is, of course, that the U.S. and Mexico walk away with the two top spots.

      Then we come down to what I've been saying all along: Canada's path to the World Cup comes in peaking at the right time, and being a little bit better than a few other middling CONCACAF nations during a very specific time period -- plus getting a bit of luck along the way. And learning to dive convincingly wouldn't hurt either.

      While some may wish for a more glorious, triumphant narrative about how Canada could finally overcome decades of futility to reappear on the sport's glorious stage, the reality is that it won't happen that way. Not for 2014, anyway. A more realistic target might be 2034, if what you want is that sort of chest-thumping.

      No, our chances of making to Brazil come through grinding, scraping, squeaking by, and hoping to get fortuitous bounces and decisions along the way. The path to 2014 isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was never going to be. At least we now know what it looks like.
      .
      Comments 15 Comments
      1. Tuscan's Avatar
        Tuscan -
        The CSA has to show this time around that they can look beyond recouping financial loss if it means we get to the World Cup. This means no Mexico in Edmonton and no Honduras in Montreal. It also means limiting away fans to avoid losing a home game due to the crowd make-up.

        We've been given the draw of dreams. Now it is up to everyone involved to make sure we take full advantage of our luck and get us the best opportunity to go to the big show. It needs to end with the players completely, no other factors need to be left to chance.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Canada vs New Zealand. Playoff. Who do you think would win?
      1. Players Needed's Avatar
        Players Needed -
        I really hope that Hart gets off his "you have to want to play for Canada" attitude, go overseas with Anthony Robbins (LOL) and convince Hoilett's, DeGuzman Jr. and co to come back to play for Canada. We need these types of players to get through. Our team is not good enough and the refereeing will more than likely be the real deciding factor. Draw was the best they could ask for.
      1. squizz's Avatar
        squizz -
        @Unreg 2:48: I don't have an answer for that, and that's kind of my point. We can talk all we want about whether Canada is "better" than New Zealand, as if such comparisons could exist in a vacuum, but what you're actually asking is, "if Canada were to face New Zealand in the playoff at some point in 2013, who would win?"

        But we have no idea what roster changes, injuries or other circumstances could happen between now and then. We could beat them. They could beat us. It could come down to one weird bounce or one bad call, and it could go for us or against us. There's just no way of saying right now.

        @Players Needed: I've said this before, and I'll say it again: If Jonathan de Guzman, Teal Bunbury, Jacob Lensky or whoever else decided that they wanted to actually come back and play for Canada -- AND, most importantly, they could make a positive contribution to the team -- then I say, take 'em back. Remaining butthurt about their past decisions doesn't help get the team any closer to the World Cup.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Lensky can't come back - he's permanently switched. Can only do so once. Bunbury, the same. JDG2 may not be eligible due to citizenship but that isn't confirmed that I am aware of.

        Daniel Fernandes as a GK might be able to come back, not sure. Hoilett certainly can.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by squizz View Post
        @Unreg 2:48: I don't have an answer for that, and that's kind of my point. We can talk all we want about whether Canada is "better" than New Zealand, as if such comparisons could exist in a vacuum, but what you're actually asking is, "if Canada were to face New Zealand in the playoff at some point in 2013, who would win?"

        But we have no idea what roster changes, injuries or other circumstances could happen between now and then. We could beat them. They could beat us. It could come down to one weird bounce or one bad call, and it could go for us or against us. There's just no way of saying right now.

        @Players Needed: I've said this before, and I'll say it again: If Jonathan de Guzman, Teal Bunbury, Jacob Lensky or whoever else decided that they wanted to actually come back and play for Canada -- AND, most importantly, they could make a positive contribution to the team -- then I say, take 'em back. Remaining butthurt about their past decisions doesn't help get the team any closer to the World Cup.
        That was me. I wondered if anyone would take it up, bacause New Zealand are one hard team to judge, thanks to that Oceania goldfish bowl, you very rarely get to see them in a proper competitive match. I was thinking todays Canada and New Zealand at the time, but you're right that we should be talking about 2013 Canada and 2013 New Zealand to answer the question properly, and that is simply not feasible right now.
      1. CanadianSoccerFan's Avatar
        CanadianSoccerFan -
        Quote Originally Posted by Tuscan View Post
        The CSA has to show this time around that they can look beyond recouping financial loss if it means we get to the World Cup. This means no Mexico in Edmonton
        If the CSA wants to make money off Mexicans they'll play in Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal. Edmonton is almost as good as it gets for remoteness.
      1. zeelaw's Avatar
        zeelaw -
        I sit back and close my eyes and imagine that moment when it actually happens and I get goosebumps. So many possible amazing memories from every possible round!
      1. MattP's Avatar
        MattP -
        Quote Originally Posted by CanadianSoccerFan View Post
        If the CSA wants to make money off Mexicans they'll play in Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal. Edmonton is almost as good as it gets for remoteness.
        Well put.

        All this talk about maximizing home field etc....all the points about suitability of Commonwealth, travel, etc. are valid.

        But if we want to put up a decent amount of home support and attempt to guarantee a minimal amount of away support...not many better places than Edmonton.
      1. Grant's Avatar
        Grant -
        Quote Originally Posted by MattP View Post
        Well put.

        All this talk about maximizing home field etc....all the points about suitability of Commonwealth, travel, etc. are valid.

        But if we want to put up a decent amount of home support and attempt to guarantee a minimal amount of away support...not many better places than Edmonton.
        Aren't there a lot of Mexicans working up in Fort McMurray? But to the larger point, the El Tri supporters are pretty committed, no matter where we'd play them in Canada they'd truck in up from the U.S. by the thousands.
      1. CanadianSoccerFan's Avatar
        CanadianSoccerFan -
        Quote Originally Posted by Grant View Post
        Aren't there a lot of Mexicans working up in Fort McMurray? But to the larger point, the El Tri supporters are pretty committed, no matter where we'd play them in Canada they'd truck in up from the U.S. by the thousands.
        There would a good turnout of Mexicans but I still don't think you would ever see a full stadium takeover in Edmonton with it being out of driving range for so much of the US. You won't see the massive convoys of families traveling like you would for a game in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. Mexico drew over 50,000 for a game in Seattle in June so that should give people an idea of the potential for a sea of green in BC Place.

        I really wish Commonwealth still had grass.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Other than the US and Cuba, all these countries have strong supporter bases and Mexico/Honduras/Jamaica/T&T/ES/Guat are like we have for World Juniors. If there is a match, they will come. And they won't be waiting to buy tickets at the last minute, complaining about prices and aren't coming to the match to sit on their hands like most Canadian supporters ex Voayageurs do.
      1. MattP's Avatar
        MattP -
        Quote Originally Posted by Grant View Post
        Aren't there a lot of Mexicans working up in Fort McMurray? But to the larger point, the El Tri supporters are pretty committed, no matter where we'd play them in Canada they'd truck in up from the U.S. by the thousands.
        There might be, I'm not sure...I do think that there are more Maritimers than Mexicans in Fort Mac, for what that's worth.

        Agreed that there will always be some travelling away support, no question. But if we're looking to minimize it...Edmonton is either a long road trip or a somewhat expensive flight from the border, never mind any significant US population base.

        Regardless, no matter who we play in CONCACAF, I figure in Edmonton (and maybe other places like Winnipeg, Moncton, etc.) we'd probably be able to have home support outnumber away support by 7-8 to 1 (for estimates, 20k or so total, 2-3k away support maybe). At least, one would hope.

        In places like Vancouver/Toronto, I don't know if we'd hit that ratio because those cities are so much more easily accessible to so many more people...but I also think it depends on the opponent. I don't know if there are enough St. Lucians to really make a difference in a half-full BMO or a quarter-full BC Place.

        I'm not clamouring for a game this round or anything, but once we start playing the Hondurans/Panamanians/Cubans/etc....might be worth a thought.
      1. Drew Shaw's Avatar
        Drew Shaw -
        The CSA needs to make the main stand opposite the cameras a home stand, and eject anyone from it wearing opposition colours. It would be the best way to convince television viewers to attend the games live.
      1. squizz's Avatar
        squizz -
        Miro, a reminder (and I know you're reading this, since you've got nothing better to do):

        I will delete your idiotic cut-and-paste comments when they appear on my posts. So don't waste your time.

        Thanks.
      Comments Leave Comment

      Click here to log in

      Christine XXXXX?