Canada begins its quest to advance to soccer’s World Cup for the first time since 1986 against lowly-ranked St. Lucia tomorrow night at BMO Field.
Trinidad-born coach Stephen Hart has included 16 participants in this year’s Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup tournament on the 19-man roster for the match against the International Football Federation (FIFA) 184th ranked country and away in Puerto Rico next Tuesday.
Veteran striker Dwayne DeRosario, who needs just three goals to overtake Dale Mitchell (19) as Canada’s leading goal scorer, leads the national challenge. Canada, ranked 102 in the world and 10th in CONCACAF, needs to finish first in its group that also includes St. Kitts & Nevis to advance to the next stage of qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The roster also includes Toronto FC midfielders Julian DeGuzman who has earned 47 caps and scored four goals and Terry Dunfield who has six caps and a goal.
Hart promises that Canada will not take St. Lucia lightly despite the vast difference in their ranking.
“In theory, you should win those games but unfortunately the games are not played theoretically,” said the coach. “You have to go into the games and be mentally prepared to do your best. And you have to understand that a lot of things that aren’t in your control could disrupt what you would like to do…When you come to a World Cup qualifier, everything becomes a little bit magnified. We need to keep our heads and not panic.”
St. Lucia erased a two-goal first-leg deficit to brush aside Aruba on penalty kicks and qualify for the first round of the World Cup tournament and a first-time meeting with Canada at the senior level.
Jamal Joseph, who scored a hat-trick at home in the return contest against Aruba last month, will be counted on for offensive thrust for St. Lucia which lost 4-0 to Barbados in a warm-up match 10 days ago.
The team also includes skipper Guy George, centre-back Vernus Abbot, defender Bernard Edward and highly-touted 17-year-old midfielder Zaine Pierre who plays with W Connection in the Trinidad & Tobago pro league.
Pierre, who made his senior team debut last year, has been on trial with English clubs Stoke City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs and Manchester City and Italy’s Serie “A” club Genoa.
“Zaine represents the future of St. Lucia soccer,” Radio St. Lucia sports editor Brian McDonald told Share. “The emphasis is on youth and the aim is to get most of the members from the Under-23 squad to form the nucleus of the national side.”
Led by technical director Cyril “Ces” Podd and coach Alain “Porsche” Providence, the St. Lucians arrived yesterday for the contest. The rest of the management team is Anthony Jno-Baptiste (assistant coach), Kim Jackson (physiotherapist), Kendall Emmanuel (manager) and Solomon Alexander (liaison officer).
Kick-off is 8 p.m.