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Floro, Osorio full of anticipation for Canada-Mexico clash

VANCOUVER – There was a sense of enthusiasm in the voices of both Benito Floro and Juan Carlos Osorio when they spoke about Friday’s important World Cup qualifier between Canada and Mexico at BC Place.

The Good Friday clash has been building excitement for several months. At Tuesday’s pre-match press conference in downtown Vancouver, Canadian Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli expected this Russia 2018 qualifier to be a sell-out after confirming that over 50,000 tickets had been sold for the first of a home-and-away set of matches between these two North American foes.

For Floro and his Canadian squad, the plan is to gain momentum from the atmosphere of the large crowd, which is expected to set a new mark for the largest attended national team event of any sport in Canada in the country’s history.

“The team is ready to fight a lot because with this support, there is not another way to do things,” the Spaniard told reporters. “We need to develop a performance that gives a lot of energy to try to win the game because it is the best way to say 'thank you' to our support.”

The prospect of a loud and passionate BC Place is also not lost on Mexico boss Osorio. The former Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls head coach believes El Tri can handle the hostility they expect to face from a pro-Canadian fan base.

“I think that most of our players have played in that type of environment,” said the Colombian-born tactician. “We have nine players that play in Europe right now and I think they are accustomed to that type of hostile environment. We have played in other difficult places like San Pedro Sula (Honduras) as an example and we had good results, so I don’t think they will be intimidated by that.”

With two games played, Canada and Mexico lead the way to reach the last round of qualifying in CONCACAF, know as the hexagonal, from semifinal Group A. With Central American rivals El Salvador and Honduras playing a similar home-and-away series over the Easter long weekend, the need to earn valuable points is top of mind.

For Canada, Friday’s home match is likely its best opportunity to claim something against the strongly favored Mexicans, with a daunting trip to the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City to come next Tuesday.

“We know that Mexico is a very good team,” Floro said. “They have very good players, but we believe in our possibilities and we are going to play the game on equal footing and with no doubt that we can win the game. We are going to fight a lot (on Friday).”

Expected to cruise to the hexagonal as the Group A winner, Osorio knows Mexico needs to be at its best to deny a Canadian side keen on making a statement to its CONCACAF rivals.

“In general terms, I think they are a very athletic team that is very difficult to defeat. They play 4-1-4-1, as they have done in the past,” Osorio said. “(Atiba) Hutchison does a great job as a central midfielder. He’s quite strong, quite athletic, and good in the air. He’s a good distributor of the ball.

“(Julian) de Guzman and (Will) Johnson are very good with the insightful balls that they play. As for the forwards – (Junior) Hoilett, (Tosaint) Ricketts, (Tesho) Akindele, and (Cyle) Larin - they are quick and pacey, capable of winning one-on-one situations. (Milan) Borjan is a very good goalkeeper.”