Over a background of carnival music provided by the Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s men’s national team spared its supporters a roller coaster ride by cruising to victory over the Central American team from Belize.
The 3-0 result will be carried over into the second leg of the aggregate score home and away series in this round of World Cup qualifying as Canada now travels to Belize to confirm the outcome Tuesday night. Two goals from Tosaint Ricketts (his 11th and 12th for Canada) and a nightcap from Atiba Hutchinson (his 6th for Canada) ensured that Canada would head to the Belize capital of Belmopan without too many worries.
With Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson back in the Canadian midfield, the side looked as dominant as they in have in years. The numbers confirmed what the eyes witnessed: 76% possession, 91% passing accuracy, 19 of Canada’s 25 shots on goal having to either be saved or blocked. Conversely, head coach Benito Floro remarked after the match that it was the first time in his career that an opposing team had failed to record a shot on target against one of his squads. These are heights rarely attained by Canada’s men’s team, no doubt a welcome change from the usual hand-wringing and self-deprecating humour used by supporters of the team to cope with the performances commonly on display.
The only part of the night that was less than ideal was when Canada’s captain, Julian de Guzman, limped off in the 14th minute, unable to continue. De Guzman injured himself while playing for his club side Ottawa Fury FC shortly after returning from Canada duty at this summer’s World Cup. He had yet to play for the Fury since the injury, though he had been cleared by Fury medical staff to play and was on the bench last Saturday. The good news is that his replacement in the match, Répentigny native Samuel Piette, has looked ready for prime time whenever called upon to replace De Guzman. When De Guzman does eventually decide to hang up his cleats, Canada can rest easy knowing there is a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings.
Canada’s technical staff must have seen something in the limited amount of video they had of Belize, because the order of the day was to exploit the wings and drive crosses into the box. Canada’s players did this with gusto, pumping 40 balls into the box over the course of the match. Two of Canada’s three goals came from such crosses. The first saw left back Marcel de Jong dribble all the way to the end line to then send a cross into the box. Following a scramble, Ricketts scored the first of his two goals. Later, right back Nikolas Ledgerwood would fire a low cross into the box which Tosaint headed past Belize keeper Woodrow West.
Canada did manage to score a goal without the use of crosses, this one coming from a short corner. Russell Teibert, who came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute, slid a ball through a Belize defender’s legs to connect with a driving Atiba Hutchinson in the 6-yard box. All Hutchinson had to do was re-direct the ball into the back of the goal, which he did to give Canada its comfortable 3-goal cushion for the trip to Belize.
With everything taken into account, the most positive aspect of Canada’s performance was seeing the amount of effort and energy put into pressing a weaker opponent into submission. Belize were never allowed to get comfortable on the ball, which was reflected in those lofty possession stats. Canada were ruthless, and got the result they were expected to get, something they haven’t always been able to achieve.
Man of the match: Atiba Hutchinson. Close call here, as Will Johnson and Nikolas Ledgerwood were also excellent, and Ricketts did score two goals. However, whenever Hutchinson was on the ball his class was on full display. He is by far Canada’s best player (of all time?).
- Teibert came off the bench once more, and continued to show he is ready to start for the national team.
- Consequently, Issey Nakajima-Farran had his moments (good and bad), but who wouldn’t select Teibert over him at this point?
- Canada could have had many more goals. Everything in the Canadian setup is sound, all the way to the decisive pass. That pass, the second-last ball before an attempt on goal, is often below-average, which then leads to a poor final attempt.
- Belize’s Trevor Lennen was excellent in marking Cyle Larin last night
- Will Johnson was robbed of a goal in the 90th minute by Belize keeper Woodrow West, who had an excellent match.
Next Match: Canada travels to Belmopan to take on Belize in the second leg of this home and home series Tuesday night. You can watch the match on EurosWorld Sport. The CSA will also attempt to get a stream going from the stadium in Belmopan.