Canada learns 2014 World Cup qualification path
Canada will begin its journey towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a series of qualifying games against a trio of unheralded island nations.
Coach Stephen Hart's Canadian side was drawn into a preliminary qualifying group with St. Lucia, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis on Saturday at the World Cup qualification draw in Rio de Janeiro.
Canada avoids Guatemala in the second round, but faces challenging matches against Cuba and Honduras, and possibly Panama, if it makes it through to the third round. Earlier this week, Hart told CBCSports.ca he was hoping to avoid Guatemala.
Canada also avoided potential third-round matches with CONCACAF heavyweights Mexico and the United States.
"I think it's a decent draw. You still have to come out of the group on top, but all in all, I happy with the draw," Hart told CBC Sports reporter Elliotte Friedman in Rio.
Hart admitted he didn’t know much about Canada’s second-round opponents and would need to do some scouting ahead of the matches.
"The main thing is you [have] take care of business at home and you get results [on the road) and you should be okay," Hart said.
The Canadian coach also likes the way his team has been playing.
"We know we still have some work to be done. We've had some very good performances and we just need a little more consistency, maybe better concentration. If we stay healthy I think this team can do very well," Hart stated.
The World Cup in Brazil, involving 32 countries playing 64 matches, will be held from June 12 to July 13, 2014.
CONCACAF, the soccer confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean, receives three automatic berths for the World Cup. The fourth-place team from CONCACAF will play a two-game, home-and-away playoff against the winner of the Oceania region in order to qualify.
The other intercontinental playoff sees the fifth-place team from Asian facing South America's fifth-best side. As hosts, Brazil automatically qualifies.
The second round of CONCACAF qualifying is scheduled for Sept. 2 to Nov. 15. That stage sees 24 teams split into groups of four with the six group winners moving on.
Six other nations — Mexico, the United States, Jamaica, Honduras, Costa Rica and Cuba — received byes into the third round where they will joined by the six group winners from the previous round. The 12 teams in the third round will be divided into groups of four with the top two in each moving on.
The final and fourth round consists of the six remaining teams fighting it out in one round-robin group for three automatic World Cup berths.
In the latest FIFA world rankings published on Wednesday, Canada dropped 22 places to No. 105, its lowest position since FIFA introduced the rankings in 1993.
Canada is the highest ranked nation in its second-round group, ahead of St. Kitts and Nevis (No. 122), Puerto Rico (No. 141) and St. Lucia (No. 183).
Canada has qualified for the World Cup once, in 1986 in Mexico, when it bowed out in the first round after losing all three of its games and failing to score a single goal.