Canadian soccer coach Stephen Hart looking ahead
Preparation for 2014 World Cup qualifiers begins with pair of upcoming friendlies
Don't mention the past to Stephen Hart. He isn't really interested.
Hart will be patrolling the sidelines when the Canadian national men's soccer team returns to action in a pair of friendlies versus Peru on Sept. 4 in Toronto and Honduras three days later in Montreal.
The match against the South Americans marks Canada's first in the Ontario capital since a 1-1 draw against Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier two years ago — a result that derailed Canada's qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.
Hart wasn't in charge back then, beginning his second stint as coach of Canada's national team a year later.
Charged with the task of ensuring Canada qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Hart is only looking forward and isn't concerned about past Canadian failures. That includes the disastrous draw against Jamaica that was representative of Canada's dismal attempt to qualify for this past summer's tournament in South Africa.
"I chose not to reflect back, unless there are lessons to be learned," Hart said.
According to Hart, these exhibition matches are vital for Canada because it will allow the team, which has only played a handful of games on home soil the past few years, to re-connect and build a better rapport with Canadian fans.
"We hope to generate a good support from the crowd," Hart said. "It's important when you play at home to get the necessary results, especially in [World Cup] qualification."
'Beginning of a building process'
The encounters against Peru and Honduras come at an interesting time, with nothing of importance on the immediate horizon for Canada. The CONCACAF Gold Cup is nine months away, and the qualifiers for the next World Cup don't begin until 2012.
But Hart believes these exhibition games have long-term benefits for the Canadian national team, as they afford him the chance "to create depth in the squad, to look at players, [and] give them the opportunity to play internationally."
"Hopefully, this is the beginning of a building process," Hart added.
Looking ahead to the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the general belief is that the United States and Mexico will be the heavy favourites to claim two of the three automatic berths in the CONCACAF region.
That leaves Canada to duke it out with the likes of Honduras (who qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa) and Costa Rica for the third spot.
Hart is looking forward to the match against the Hondurans in Montreal, but he isn't overly concerned with the final result. Nor does he believe the game will be an accurate barometer of where Canada stands in relation to Honduras in terms of World Cup qualification for Brazil.
"If we were to simply look at the result, I think it's going to be difficult because you can play poorly and still [win], and you can play well and not [win]," Hart stated. "I think what's important is how we perform — how we play the game, how many chances we can create.
"The most important thing for me is how we approach the game, how we deal with setbacks [and] all the things that may come up in the future."