The CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying third round will get under way on Friday. Like past years, the federation has been rewarded with three and a half berths. At the end of round four, the fourth place finisher will have to play an inter conference two legged playoff against the Oceanic Champion of their qualifying campaign.
The twelve remaining teams have been slotted into three pools of four. The groups are completely random, however, the twelve teams had three different plots to avoid any groups of death.
Personally, I find the groups are quite even. Canada, USA and Mexico were placed into three different groups. This is not often the case; in fact, Canada had a 66.67% chance of being in either Mexico’s or the Americans group.
Fortunately for Canada, the other 33.34% fell in their favour. Canada defeated Honduras the last time they played in Montreal and Cuba is coming off a horrible 2011 Gold Cup where they lost all three games by a combined score of 16-1. Furthermore, Panama needed an injury time goal to draw with Canada the last time they played.
No one can argue that Canada got the group they wanted, what the fans can argue about is whether or not Canada will take advantage of the fortunate group. Canadian soccer fans have been waiting 26 years since their teams last appearance in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Ever since than it has been extremely disappointing from our National team. In the past, it has been frustrating set backs that have turned wins into a draws, or a draw into a loss. A little thing here or there for this team is the difference from success to failure.
Especially at the CONCACAF level, after the United States and Mexico there becomes a major logjam of teams fighting over 3rd, 4th and 5th. For instance, the average soccer might fan might say that Costa Rica is the next best team after USA and Mexico. That person’s guess might be accurate however, Costa Rica finished sixth in last years Gold Cup. In addition, Trinidad and Tobago who is usually at least in the Top 10 in the CONCACAF rankings failed to qualify for stage three.
Parody, is surely the name of the game when it comes to qualifying for the World Cup. It’s why it’s so important that Stephen Hart has his team playing the best soccer at this time of year. The team showed signs of that on Sunday when they played the Americans to a 0-0 draw in Toronto. The qualifying formula goes like this: If Canada is too win their home games and draw their away games, surely this Canadian team will find themselves playing in the Final group. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. If the cards fall in the right places, Canada’s game AT Honduras might not mean anything if Panama is that far behind. In contrast, the half glass empty thought is the game won’t mean anything to Canada because they will have already been eliminated.
Realistically, this team does have a chance to do something in qualifying that they haven’t done in quite awhile which is qualify for the final group of six. Anything farther well, we’ll cross that bridge when/if we have to. For me, this team will have a much better campaign then last time around but it won’t be enough. Until this team proves to me that they can win in Central America I’ll refuse to put them through to the final round of Qualifying. Canada will be eliminated on the final day of Group C play.