Canada is in tough Saturday night when the team faces off against Mexico for a place in the men’s Olympic soccer tournament in London this summer.
The national under-23 side will have to turn back the formidable Mexican team which finished on top of its group.
Canada last appeared in the Olympics 28 years ago and failed in its bid to avoid the Mexicans, conceding a goal in injury time to Cuba last Monday night in a 1-1 tie in Nashville.
“The players are very upset right now,” manager Tony Fonseca said after the match. “Our focus is to recover and to prepare for the semi-final…I think today they paid a bit of a price for being young and naïve.”
After starting the tournament with a goalless draw against El Salvador, Canada pulled off a major upset last Saturday, shutting out the United States 2-0 for its first win over the Americans since 1992 in the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini scored Canada’s two goals.
The Americans failed to make the semi-finals after being held to a 3-3 draw by El Salvador. It’s the second time since 1976 that the U.S. will miss the Olympics.
The top two teams in the regional qualifier will advance.
Canada has appeared in the Olympics on three occasions. The national side won the gold medal in 1904, hosted in 1976 in Montreal and participated in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
A total of 16 teams will take part in the London Games from July 26 to August 11.
In addition to host country England, Egypt, Gabon, Morocco, Belarus, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, the Korea Republic, Japan and the United Arab Emirates have already qualified.
Oman, Syria and Uzbekistan are contesting a round-robin tournament that wraps up today. The winner will meet Senegal in a one-game playoff at the City of Coventry Stadium on April 23 to determine the last team to fill the final Olympic spot.
Meanwhile, eight South African cities are bidding to host matches during next year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The bidders are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Polokwane, Rustenburg, Nelspruit, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Durban.
The South African Soccer Association will meet on Saturday to consider recommendations from the committee that heard the bids. Organizers have not confirmed how many cities will eventually stage matches, but the South African media is widely reporting a figure of seven.
South Africa, which hosted the last World Cup in 2010, was granted the 2013 tournament after original host country Libya was deemed an unsuitable venue due to civil unrest. The Libyans have since been assigned the 2017 competition.
The 16-team tournament starts next January with the winners representing Africa at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
By RON FANFAIR