MEXICO CITY – The Canadian men’s national soccer team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup are still alive but tough days lie ahead, including one at a place that holds a lot of nightmares.
First-half goals from Jose Guardado and Jesus Corona were the difference as Mexico beat Canada 2-0 on Tuesday night in a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
Guardado converted a penalty in the 17th minute and Corona added a lovely goal from the edge of the Canadian penalty area seconds before the end of the first half as Mexico picked up its second straight win over Canada after a 3-0 result in Vancouver last Friday.
“We need to consider that sometimes victory is not for our team,” said Canadian head coach Benito Floro. “It’s not only to win a game, but to grow and demonstrate that we are a serious team. I think from the first moment in Vancouver to the last moment in Mexico, our players fought a lot with good positioning.”
The result leaves Canada in a second-place tie in Group A with Honduras with four points. Honduras, though, is holding a better goal difference after a 2-0 win at home over El Salvador earlier in the day.
The Canadians next competitive game is in September in Honduras at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, the same venue where their hopes of a 2014 World Cup came to a spectacular end when they dropped an 8-1 game back in 2012.
In between now and then, they have announced a friendly against Azerbaijan in June.
“We’re looking forward to it. It was a tough loss tonight but the guys are looking forward to the September games,” said midfielder Nik Ledgerwood. “All of the guys are going to be in season. All the guys will be fit so I think it will be a different result.”
After Canada won the game’s first corner kick in just the second minute, Mexico started to turn on the pressure and spent a great deal of time in the Canadian half and was eventually rewarded for it.
After Doneil Henry was ruled to have knocked over Marco Fabian in the Canadian penalty area, Guardado stepped up and put his penalty kick to the left of Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Borjan later had to come off with Kenny Stamatopoulos taking his place after it appeared the Borjan picked up a hand injury making a save.
“I had no time to think about it,” said Stamatopoulos, who came into one of the most intense atmospheres in world soccer.
“Before the game you’re mentally prepared to play whenever the opportunity comes and it came.”
After Borjan received treatment for a few minutes prior to coming off, a few extra minutes of stoppage time were added and Corona won space with a nice spin on the ball and took a shot that beat Stamatopoulos.
Canada has two games left in this round as it looks for a first berth in the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region. After playing Honduras in September, Canada returns home for a game against El Salvador.
“I thought the guys did a good job minus the penalty shot and the goal in the last minute of the first half,” said captain Julian de Guzman. “It felt like we were a bit more organized and then going into the second half we picked up a little more confidence and I think the way we were organized means a lot going into the next game.”
Canada’s holding a minus-4 goal difference while Honduras is minus-1 with its victory.
© 2016 The Canadian Press