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Canada needs win in Costa Rica to keep World Cup qualifying chances alive

(CP) - The light at the end of the World Cup qualifying tunnel will be a lot harder to see if the Canadian men's soccer team loses to Costa Rica on Wednesday.

Canada is 0-1-1 after picking up just one of six possible points at home in a 2-0 loss to Guatemala and 1-1 tie with Honduras. Guatemala has six points, Honduras four and Costa Rica none after two games. Each team plays the other home and away, with the top two in the group advancing to the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

With just one home game remaining, things are already looking bleak for Canada.

So would a loss in Costa Rica on Wednesday derail Canada's chances of moving on?

"Yes. I mean you've got one point from three games," coach Frank Yallop said candidly Tuesday from his team's hotel in Costa Rica when asked about the scenario. "And you've basically got to win your last three matches. It's difficult to win or two in a row let alone three.

"But you never stop playing, you never stop trying, building for the future."

Going into this round of World Cup qualifying, Yallop had estimated 10 points from six games would be a good haul.

"Yes it would be a yardstick for us but you never know in these groups," he said at the time. "Nine might be enough. Maybe 11 could be the measuring stick."

Canada's bid to make the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the last World Cup ended 29 games ago on Sept. 3, 2000, in a 4-0 loss in Trinidad and Tobago that dropped Canada's record to 0-3-1 in the semifinal qualifying round.

Canada's fate this time round could be officially decided next month in back-to-back games Oct. 9 in Honduras and Oct. 13 against Costa Rica in Burnaby, B.C.

Canada's cause in Costa Rica on Wednesday will not be helped by the absence of defender Jason deVos and fullback Paul Stalteri (both suspended) and Adrian Serioux (shoulder).

The absence of deVos in the opening loss to Guatemala proved costly on occasion.

Also not helping this time round is that veteran Tony Menezes, a possible sub for deVos, has a minor knee knock suffered in training.

Montreal Impact defender Gabe Gervais is another replacement option.

Not matter who steps in, deVos, who scored on a header against Honduras, will be missed for his leadership and presence on set pieces.

Another worry is the fact the game will be played on an artificial FieldTurf surface that will be more familiar to the Costa Ricans.

The Costa Ricans, 0-2, will be under pressure to produce against Canada.

Soccer is their game and nobody expected a side ranked third in CONCACAF and 33rd in the world - some 66 places above Canada - to be in the basement at this stage.

"All in all, two teams that really need to win this game," Yallop said.

Yallop reckons the Costa Ricans are better than the standings show.

In Costa Rica's opening 5-2 loss, visiting Honduras went ahead 3-2 on a 67th-minute penalty before padding the score with goals in the 87th and 90th minutes.

In Guatemala, Costa Rica had a forward sent off in the 16th minute of a 2-1 loss.

"They're still a good side," Yallop said.

The good news is the Canadians have been able to put some distance between themselves and the disappointing 1-1 tie with Honduras.

The Canadians led 1-0 late in the game Saturday before the referee awarded a dubious penalty that led to the tying goal and then called off a winner from Olivier Occean for a supposed foul.

"Two calls in two minutes may have cost (us) the round," said Yallop.

Ironically the Canadian travelling squad later bumped into the officiating crew at the Toronto airport.

The official in question, Mexico's Benito Archundia, is no refereeing rube.

FIFA thought enough of him to put him in charge of the Olympic semifinal in Athens between Italy and Argentina. He has been on FIFA's approved list of international refs since 1993.

Canadian officials are pondering what can be done about the refereeing gaffes.

They know the toothpaste can't be squeezed back into the tube but wouldn't mind the official in question being judged on his actions when it comes time to future assignments.

Archundia is also slated to officiate the Costa Rica-Guatemala game on Oct. 9.

On the field, Yallop saw some positive signs in the second side against Honduras, a team the Canadian coach believes may be the best in Canada's group.

Yallop said he took forward Paul Peschisolido off in the second half because Tomasz Radzinski wasn't getting the support he needed.

Canada was also getting overrun in midfield, he added.

Certainly the Canadians gave away the ball at times, with talented young midfielder Julian deGuzman alternating between creativity and charity on the ball.

Introducing 17-year-old Jamie Peters provided some midfield width but with the clock winding down he brought in Josh Simpson and Occean in a bid to get a result.

Radzinski, whose allegiance to the national team was once in question, proved his commitment with an energetic game, tracking back to help the defence whenever possible.

"He showed in that game how much he wants to play for Canada," Yallop said.

Also Wednesday, Honduras hosts Guatemala with Yallop picking the home side to win.


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quote:FIFA thought enough of him to put him in charge of the Olympic semifinal in Athens between Italy and Argentina. He has been on FIFA's approved list of international refs since 1993.

You would think that being on FIFA's list for the last 11 years it means something? Not at all, many of those appointments are just political. Having a FIFA referee badge is no assurance at all of a decent level of competency. FIFA is actually running out of referees, so they had to lift the age limit of 45 that existed until a year or two ago.

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John Doyle mentions the game in his Globe and Mail television column today. I was puzzled that he didn't mention the Honduras game last Friday. Doyle is known to be a soccer fan.


Soccer boy asks you to note -- Costa Rica versus Canada is live-aired in parts of the country tonight (Sportsnet, 10 p.m.) and in Ontario it's tape-delayed at 2 a.m. This is a World Cup qualifying game. That is, the real World Cup involving countries from Azerbaijan to Zambia, not the World Cup that includes eight countries.

What happened to Canada in its most recent game, last Saturday against Honduras, was a heartbreaker and a disgrace. Leading 1-0, Canada had a penalty called against it and then a goal disallowed. Both decisions were clearly wrong. The game ended in farce and controversy and the sight of Jason De Vos, kneeling on the field in Edmonton, exhausted and furious with frustration, was iconic.

As Canada seems to be cruising toward total victory in the other World Cup, spare a thought for the guys on the long, rough road to soccer's World Cup, especially to De Vos. There is great drama and poignancy there. It's not as important as the Canadian drama involving auditors, cops and crooked politicians, but it's still worth your attention. And it's less predictable than the other World Cup.

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