Canada still holds Hex fate in own hands

With the toughest part of the schedule done, Benito Floro's side is very much in the race to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying.

One week. Two losses. Five goals against. Zero goals scored.

It's hard to spin any kind of positivity after Canada dropped consecutive matches to Mexico over the past few days, but Benito Floro's side can take solace in the fact that the hard part is done. 

The Canadians sit third in Group A of CONCACAF's fourth round of World Cup qualification, with Honduras slipping by them on goal differential thanks to a productive pair of matches against the group's current bottom-dweller, El Salvador.

And despite all of the positive vibes surrounding the Canadian team last week heading into last Friday's record-breaking contest at BC Place, the grim reality is that Mexico was always going to be a monumental challenge for a side that has hasn't yet proven it can hang with the second tier of CONCACAF, let alone go toe-to-toe with the big dogs in green.

Yet Canada did so — for all of about 30 minutes until a clinical Chicharito header unraveled a side punching way above its weight. For the remainder of Friday's affair, it was all Mexico as the world No. 22 put on a technical and tactical masterclass for the nearly 55,000 in attendance.

More of the same was expected Tuesday night, when the two teams met again at the famed Estadio Azteca. And while Mexico was assuredly the much better side on the night, it wasn't nearly as devastating a match as it could have been. 

Instead, Mexico got itself an early lead and then was content to see out the game without incident. When Jesus "Tecatito" Corona used an individual bit of brilliance to beat the entire Canadian back line and give Mexico a two-goal margin at the stroke of halftime, both sides seemed resigned to finishing the game as is.

Sure, there were occasional forays from either side, and flashes of the outstanding Mexican passing and team-wide movement that is unmatched in this region, but for the most part neither team looked particularly interested in making a game of it in the second half.

Mexico knew it had sewn up the spot in the Hex, while Canada was clearly trying to manage the scoreline while also mentally preparing for the final pair of group matches in the fall.

Indeed, that's where Canada's fate lies. Though it has yet to be confirmed, a trip to the daunting Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula surely awaits Floro's charges, along with a home match against the Salvadorans that could be a one-off to decide which team joins the Mexicans in the final round.

That's what it was always going to be for Canada (and Honduras, and El Salvador). Limit the damage taken from the best Mexican team in a decade while maximizing points against the other teams in the group.

So while it was nice to dream of nabbing a point from Mexico and boosting their chances considerably, the Canadians knew that their fate was always realistically going to be decided by the games against the group's Central American representatives.

Now the real work begins.