Victory puts Canada in good position to move on | Soccer | CBC Sports

CanadaVictory puts Canada in good position to move on

Posted: Saturday, September 8, 2012 | 01:23 AM

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Forward Dwayne De Rosario (14) put Canada in a good position to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying after scoring the game-winning goal against Panama on Friday night. (Geoff Robins/Getty Images) Forward Dwayne De Rosario (14) put Canada in a good position to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying after scoring the game-winning goal against Panama on Friday night. (Geoff Robins/Getty Images)

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Canada is in a comfortable position to advance in World Cup qualifying after defeating Panama on Friday.
The world must be on its head.

The Canadian men's national soccer team was in a game where they deserved to win and then, gasp, they did. A strange occurrence, which few wandering through the wilderness of Canadian soccer has ever seen. Call it a Bigfoot moment. Call it a UFO sighting.

Call it what you want. But, for a squad which managed a 1-0 win at home over Panama and then ripped top place in the group from its opponent's hands, the narrative of a Canadian team that chronically underperforms is starting to be played out.

For long suffering national team followers, Friday night had been years in the making - a game where the Canadians lived up to the expectations, in a game where they had to. Too many bad memories of Canada getting a sniff at what could have been have bubbled up through the ether over the years. Watching the sweaty masses stumble around in their daze following the victory - it was clear they have been left alone in the woods too long.

Failing to secure the full three points at home would have meant travelling to Panama next week to seek out a must-win. Now it's more of an it-would-be-nice if they won.

Canada in comfortable position

It's a comfortable position and one that now leaves Canada very much in control of where it goes from here. And much like head coach Stephen Hart's players did on this night, they can dictate how they want to play out the rest of the group.

Looking at the matchups the rest of the way, and prognosticating how they will likely go for their opponents, you can see that for Canada to qualify for the next round, it will likely mean taking a measly three points over its final three games.

That means seeing Panama and Honduras away and then a single remaining home game against Cuba. As measly as the points may seem, none of those games will be easy if Canada doesn't find ways to improve its weak offensive game. The Canadians simply aren't imposing themselves on the backline of their opponents as they are capable of.

Canada, for as well as it played through midfield against Panama - it was the most organized the Canucks have been in recent memory - is still struggling to pull the trigger when it comes to taking shots on goal. Yes, chances glanced wide. Posts were hit. And when you look at how few shots Panama put on net it would be easy to conclude that Canada dominated in its respective offensive third.

Time and again however, after a thrilling build up, Canadian strikers would go begging for the final shot - opting, instead to lay off to more wing play. It's one part refreshing to see the domestic side not rushing to force a chance. It's one part frustrating to see their strikers turn down obvious opportunities. And it's two parts concerning to think that despite not allowing a single goal over their first three games of this round, they've managed to only pot two goals in the opposing team's net.

Canada playing dangerous games

It might be working for them now but that's a dangerous game to play when you too often turn down viable opportunities. Of course, the irony in that statement is that their lone goal Friday night was all about opportunity.

Following a foul against Simeon Jackson, Atiba Hutchinson - who if you haven't been paying attention is a major reason for Canada's return to form in the midfield - calmly strolled up to the dead ball and delivered a fantastic cross to the foot of Dwayne De Rosario. It was absolutely cut throat.

The goal made DeRo Canada's all-time leading scorer with 20 goals and harkened back to memories of a similar dead ball cleverness that led to a tying goal against Ecuador last year.

That's exactly what Canada needs to find in itself over the next three games - a willingness to take those unapologetic chances when they present themselves. Their road to the next round is certainly wider now, but that's no reason to ease off the pedal and nurse the corners in those Panamanian hills.

Playing it safe might be the smart move, but Canada playing to win? Now that really would be turning the world on its head.

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