Canada: See Thee Qualification Hopes Rise

Canada: See Thee Qualification Hopes Rise

Canada wrapped up their Round 2 qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Toronto last night with a healthy 4-0 victoria over St Kitts and Nevis.

It’s never easy playing two teams at the same time, as we saw in the no score, bore draw on Friday. St Kitts were easy to conquer but man, did Nevis put up a fight.

In the build up to the game, Canadian coach Stephen Hart said “We owe it to the fans to put on a good performance”. He, and the team, were certainly true to their word.

The reaction by some to Friday’s draw was a little strange. It was all doom and gloom in some quarters and you’d have thought that the Canadians tournament dreams were all over instead of securing the vital point which saw Canada qualify for the CONCACAF round three group games with a match left to spare.

Sure it wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. It all reminded me of this famous quote from Blackpool manager Ian Holloway:

“To put it in gentleman’s terms, if you’ve been out for a night and you’re looking for a young lady and you pull one, some weeks they’re good looking and some weeks they’re not the best. Our performance today would have been not the best looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi. She wasn’t the best looking lady we ended up taking home but she was very pleasant and very nice, so thanks very much, let’s have a coffee.”

Last night’s clean sheet saw Canada’s shutout streak extended to 533 minutes, just eight minutes shy of the national record. Canada’s five consecutive clean sheets does tie the national record.

As something of an outsider (as a Scot now living in Canada and cheering them on), the positive signs are there, from what I’m seeing.

I personally don’t really care all that much what route my teams get to their destination, just as long as they make it in the end.

When I first moved over here in 2007, I found it surprising on the one hand at the lack of interest in the national team, but also not too shocked when considering the immigrant make-up of the country, the lack of exposure and I guess, ultimately, the lack of success on the major international stage.

A generation has passed since Canada last qualified for the World Cup, and that’s too long. Scotland are nearly getting to those levels, so I know how depressing it all is.

It’s been great to see the slow change of attitude from many to the Canadian national team these last few years and these qualifiers have seen an interest in Vancouver that I haven’t found here before and it’s been pleasing and refreshing to see.

The Vancouver Voyageurs, coupled with the Southsiders, have been promoting the hell out of their viewing parties and there’s been good numbers turning up at Doolins to watch the games, even for those on crappy online streams.

And of course it’s not just in Vancouver that we’re seeing this change of attitude and new found excitement in the national team.

Tuesday night’s attendance of 10,235 was the seventh consecutive attendance over 10,000 for a Canadian FIFA World Cup Qualifier home match. The streak includes all home qualification games from 2008 and 2011.

Canada’s home average attendance for the last two cycles of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers (2008-2011) is 47% greater than the average attendance recorded for the previous 11 cycles combined (1957-2004).

Hopefully great for the domestic game, as well as the national one.

Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC have healthy and loyal support. The introduction of Montreal next season will bolster these numbers further.

There’s always been a loyal and fervent support here for the national team, but now that more and more people are getting used to watching domestic football on a regular basis, these numbers are growing.

If Vancouver (and Montreal) can actually start producing first team Canadian regulars, that will become household names, then this is a key to growing these numbers and interest further from my viewpoint.

Canada has booked six new dates on their road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil. Canada will now play six more group matches, this time against Honduras, Panama and Cuba from 8th June to 16th October next year.

Locations for home and away matches will only be announced in early 2012. Hopes are high that Vancouver might attract one of these games to BC Place, even if realistic expectations don’t match.

We would be prepared to wager that if we were to attract a game (or two) to the west coast, we’d be talking about way larger numbers attending than what’s been seen in Toronto and Montreal of late.

The dates and opponents for each of the matches are as follows:

8 June 2012 – Cuba v Canada
12 June 2012 – Canada v Honduras
7 September 2012 – Canada v Panama
11 September 2012 – Panama v Canada
12 October 2012 – Canada v Cuba
16 October 2012 – Honduras v Canada

The top two teams from each group will make up a final round of six teams, that will play 10 matches from 6th February to 15th October 2013. The top three teams from this final group will qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, whilst the fourth-place team will advance to an intercontinental playoff.

The real frustrating aspect of it all is how long the CONCACAF process takes to play out.

Just when we’re all excited about the national team, we now have to wait nearly seven months before we see the guys kick a ball in competitive anger again. Let’s hope the excitement and passion we’ve seen these last few weeks just gets even stronger in that time.

With Tuesday night’s victory, Canada’s all-time record in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers improves to 40 wins, 31 draws and 30 losses in 101 matches. let’s hope we can add to this and get the total number of wins to 50.

Get that and I can hear the samba music and feel the sand between my toes already.

I still have my dream of heading down to Brazil to see both Canada and Scotland in the 2014 Finals.

Dum spiro, spero. While I breathe, I hope.

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