Skip to main content

Canada ready to exorcise demons of past failures

"We pretty much embarrassed ourselves."

Current Canada captain Julian de Guzman spoke those damning words in the immediate aftermath of the most humiliating defeat in team history — an 8-1 drubbing at Honduras in October 2012 that eliminated the side from yet another World Cup qualifying campaign and cost then-head coach Stephen Hart his job.

Even worse is that Canada would have stayed alive with just a draw in that match against the Central Americans, a result which the team had already achieved in the reverse fixture earlier that year.

And while some would say that last November's 1-0 win over Honduras at BC Place was when the Canadians finally put their three-year nightmare to rest, the opportunity to completely erase those memories has actually presented itself against a different, much better team four months later.

Now helmed by Benito Floro, Canada faces Mexico in a pair of World Cup qualifiers over the next few days, the first of which takes place at the same Vancouver stadium in which last November's spiritual cleansing took place. For this one, there will be a sellout crowd of nearly 55,000 on hand as the Canadians ride the momentum of a fairly decent few months for the sport throughout the nation.

Of course, many of the denizens at BC Place on Friday night will be clad in Mexico green — only time will tell exactly how many — but the mere fact that such a large crowd will be paying money to watch Canada's men's side is a testament to the renewed optimism surrounding the squad.

Floro has been something of a Pied Piper of dual-nationals over the past year, having helped entice Tesho Akindele, Junior Hoilett, Wandrille Lefevre, Steven Vitoria, Fraser Aird and Scott Arfield into the fold in recent months. And despite drawing criticism for his perceived overly defensive tactics, the results speak for themselves as Canada has yet to lose in World Cup qualifying under the Spaniard (and has only lost twice in any type of match since 2014).

The team itself is more cohesive than it's been in years, with players lining up to speak about the great chemistry and morale that Floro and his staff have built since taking over a program in tatters in 2013.

The captain of those players and one of the half-dozen starters from the 8-1 debacle who remains with the side, de Guzman couldn't have been singing a more different tune this week in comparison to his stinging words in October 2012.

“The confidence coming into this camp, looking at the names we have on our side, we have no fear," de Guzman told reporters this week ahead of Friday's huge contest with the Mexicans. "It’s a different feel versus the way it has been in the past. We’re definitely confident to step up to the challenge — not just comfortable but well prepared.”

Of course, the monkey wrench in all of this Canadian positivity is the juggernaut Mexican side. Juan Carlos Osorio's team is the Goliath to Floro's David, and the likes of Chicharito, Andres Guardado and Miguel Layun could conspire to make Canada's evening at BC Place a miserable one, regardless of any amount of preparation and momentum stockpiled by the home side.

But for now Canadians can revel in something that's been sorely missing from the men's national team program for the past three-and-a-half years — hope.

Follow RUDI SCHULLER on