Interim Canadian soccer coach Colin Miller has called for patience in the wake of a comprehensive 4-0 loss to Denmark on Saturday.
A young, outmatched Canadian side found itself down 2-0 after just 11 minutes against a Danish side, stripped of most of its stars.
It was a stroll in the park for the Danes, who were led by teenage striker Andreas Cornelius' three goals. Denmark was given too much respect and time on the ball — and took advantage.
The game was the first for the Canadian men since they crashed out of World Cup qualifying via a humiliating 8-1 loss last October in Honduras.
Miller was handed a green 22-man roster, half of whom were born in the '90s. His task will not be any easier Tuesday in Houston when Canada takes on a largely domestic American side whose players will be looking to prove they belong in the shirt when Juergen Klinsmann's side begins the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
After the game, Miller was passionate when asked what his message might be to supporters back home in the wake of another lopsided defeat.
"We have to be patient here," he said. "We have no divine right to think that we are No. 1 in the world. For some reason in Canada, we seem to think we're at that level. We're not. Let's call the spade the spade. We're not at that level. There is so much work needing to be done. And here today was probably the first step towards that work being done in many many ways.
"The people who are going to slaughter us on blogs and all that sort of stuff, have to really tune in to what's going on in world football. ... And I'm not fluffing over things. There's nobody any more disappointed than Colin Miller. Let me tell you, it wasn't for the Family Channel what I said at halftime to our players. And you saw a bit more response from that in the second half. We need to get that consistently and get better."
Denmark is ranked 23rd in the world while Canada is 64th.
But those numbers didn't mean much on the day. Both teams fielded young sides, given the game did not fall on a FIFA international date. Canada's starting 11 featured just three players — goalie Lars Hirschfeld, midfielder Nik Ledgerwood and striker Tosaint Ricketts — who started in Honduras.
With little of import on the horizon, Canada is auditioning young talent for the future.
Miller, who gave six players their first caps at the senior level, said he effectively played the second half with an MLS reserve team against a "very good Danish side."
"An incredibly valuable learning experience for everyone," said the former Canadian international.
The matchup was a massive ask for a raw Canadian squad that had only 193 caps in total, with attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario (71) and Hirschfeld (45) accounting for more than 60 per cent of those.
Hirschfeld was given the second half off as Miller emptied his bench. The veteran 'keeper has now given up 11 goals in his last 135 minutes with the national team and deserves better.
The Canadians have had little time together and it showed. And the Danes were motivated, with many looking to impress manager Morton Olsen and play their way onto the World Cup qualifying team.
Kasper Lorentzen also scored for Danes, who took advantage of sloppy Canadian defending to lead 3-0 at the half. Veteran winger Dennis Rommedahl sliced open the Canadian backline with several runs.
"We're disappointed certainly in the manner of goals we gave away," said Miller.
"You can't give players at this level of football as much time as we gave then in the first half and that was clearly evident," he added. "It was boys against men at some times during the first half for sure."
"Gimmes," De Rosario said of the first three Danish goals
Olsen subbed three players at the half, including veteran Dennis Rommedahl, who had his way down the flank in the opening going.
Terry Dunfield, who won his 11th cap, wore the captain's armband for the first time for his country. Ledgerwood also became skipper for the first time when Dunfield was subbed in the second half.
Midfielder Kyle Bekker, drafted third overall in the MLS SuperDraft earlier this month by Toronto FC, started to win his first cap.
Goalie Simon Thomas, Evan James, Kyle Porter, Philippe Davies and Mason Trafford, coming on as second-half substitutes, also won their first caps.
"The positives were the learning experiences," said De Rosario. "What not to do and what we could do better."
"There's definitely work to be done. This is the first stepping stone towards that," he added.
Poor field conditions
The game was played before a sparse crowd of 3,042 at the 11,500-seat Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, a baseball park that is home to the Pacific Coast League's Tucson Padres. It made for a quiet afternoon, with almost no crowd noise.
The field did not draw rave reviews, and one corner was like a bog after a morning torrential downpour. There was a tarp covering the field, but the water apparently leaked as it was rolled up.
The Danish starting 11 featured just three players — Michael Silberbauer, Lars Jacobsen and Rommedahl who started in Denmark's last World Cup qualifying game, a 3-1 loss to 10-man Italy last October. Lorentzen, Jores Okore, Casper Sloth, and Steffen Rasmussen were on the bench against Italy but started against Canada.
Cornelius, a 19-year-old FC Copenhagen striker who is joint top scorer in the Danish league with 14 goals in 20 matches, lived up to his billing.
"Absolutely special," said Miller.
For Miller, it was his fourth straight loss as interim Canada coach — all against quality sides. In 2003, when he bridged the gap between Holger Osieck and Frank Yallop, he lost to the Czech Republic, Finland and Ireland.
Denmark travels to Phoenix to meet Mexico on Wednesday.