Canada faces Cuba in crucial CONCACAF Olympic qualifying
Canadians not taking winless Cubans for granted
Fresh off a stunning victory, the Canadian men’s under-23 team continues its pursuit of an Olympic spot for this summer’s London Games.
Canada, which defeated the powerful U.S. side over the weekend, finishes Group A play against Cuba on Monday night (6:30 p.m. ET) in Nashville, Tenn.
The Canadians simply need a tie against the 0-2 Cubans to advance to the semifinal round. The two top teams in each group will make it to the semifinals, and Canada would book its ticket to London should it reach the final.
Canada has not qualified for the Olympics in men's soccer since 1984.
However, there remains plenty of work between now and then.
While Cuba has been outscored 10-0 in its two losses, the Canadians are aware of what can happen when a team gets caught looking ahead, something the Americans found out Saturday.
"Nobody likes to lose and I’m pretty sure that they will come with everything that they have," Canada’s head coach, Tony Fonseca, told Sportsnet. "They will fight for it."
After an uneven performance in its opening-game draw against El Salvador, Canada pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament in a 2-0 victory over the U.S. on Saturday.
Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini scored for Canada.
The victory was impressive on two fronts: Canada’s defence was outstanding, especially the way the unit was able to shutdown the Americans, particularly striker Joe Corona. This allowed the Canadians to effectively counter attack.
"Obviously, having those young guys performing this way and buying into everything is fantastic," said Fonseca.
Despite the win, Canada is only 2-4-2 all-time against the U.S. in the qualifying tournament.
The Canadians are tied with El Salvador for first place in Group A.
A victory over Cuba, combined with an El Salvador tie or loss to the Americans on Monday night (9:30 p.m. ET) would give Canada top spot in the group. This is important because it would mean Canada would avoid a matchup against Mexico in the semifinal round.
The Canadians will be missing two important players against Cuba. Striker Babayele Sodade landed awkwardly on Saturday and injured his right knee. The Canadians will also lose Randy Edwini-Bonsu after the forward was given a red card late in the game against the U.S.
Edwini-Bonsu, one of Canada's most dangerous players throughout the game, was visibly upset at referee Jafeth Perea.
The red card was still a mystery to Fonseca after the match.
"I only saw the fourth official calling the referee and giving him instructions to give the red card to [Edwini-Bonsu]," Fonseca said in his post-game press conference. "But I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anything. Honestly, I don't know what happened."
With files from The Associated Press