Canada's goal is a goal

Team Canada's Will Johnson hides his shame against Austria at the U-20 World Cup in Edmonton...

Team Canada's Will Johnson hides his shame against Austria at the U-20 World Cup in Edmonton yesterday. (Sun Media/Darryl Dyck)

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

In the entire history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, no host country has ever lost all three group games and failed to score a single solitary goal.

There's that.

No country had ever played in three different editions of the tournament without scoring a goal until Canada did so in 1985 and 2001. England, of all nations, also did it in 1999 and 2003.

There's that.

NEGATIVE HISTORY

There's also the negative sports hosting history in Canada, such as being the only nation to host both a summer Olympic Games (Montreal 1976) and a winter Olympic Games (Calgary 1988) and not win a gold medal in either.

And, of course, there's our men's World Cup soccer history. Only once has Canada made it to the real World Cup. No wins. No goals.

Going into tonight's final group game versus Congo at Commonwealth Stadium, the Canadians will be pushed by the positive of taking the field and still having a chance to advance with a win.

Hopefully this time the crowd will be inside the stadium for kickoff instead of outside as was the case with the fiasco with only half the crowd of 31,579 inside the park for most of the first half against Austria last week.

But there's much more negative motivation in front of this team going into this game than positive.

There's all of the above.

And there's one other thing. Dale Mitchell is Canada's coach.

When this tournament is over he moves up to be coach of Canada's national team for World Cup qualifying.

Mitchell is going to remember who, in this situation, with all this pressure, comes through and who does not.

"It's been mentioned," he said.

"This is when a coach is really watching you to see how you handle the pressure. He wants this for us as bad as we do," said forward Will Johnson of Toronto.

Edmonton product Asmir Begovic, the keeper who has been by far Canada's best player, says Mitchell is going to have a pretty good book on these players after this.

"With Dale the next coach of the national team, it's important for a lot of players to prove they have the kind of stuff to rise to the moment in a game like this," he said.

But he says its mostly about Canada now.

"We have to go out and put things right. It's important for Canada, for soccer in Canada, to get a result and move on to the next round."

Going into this tournament, Mitchell sold the positives.

He boldly predicted his team had what it takes to get through group play and give Edmonton fans at least one extra game in the round of 16.

GREATEST SUCCESS

"My thought was this time we're at home that it would be a benefit," said the coach who took this team to its greatest success, reaching the quarter-finals four years ago in the United Arab Emirites.

Now he's seen how being the host team at a tournament can work against you.

"I don't think in the past the other teams looked at Canada as seriously," he said of pre-tournament scouting.

"We played a lot of good teams in pre-tournament games to prepare for this. We beat Brazil here in Edmonton last year.

We defeated the Czech Republic in a game in Prague. We've had good results against good teams.

"That, I think, inspired teams to do their homework on us."

Mitchell, who had the best chance to get a goal as a striker for Canada at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, said there's no ignoring the obvious.

"We haven't scored. We have to find a way to be more dangerous."

This is one Canadian team, unlike so many others, that wasn't worried about offence.

"We never had problems scoring goals," said forward Will Johnson.

"We get to the tournament and it's like it all dried up."

Johnson, the Toronto product, says there's positive motivation, negative motivation or a mix of the two.

"This is a chance to show everybody who has criticized us that we're good."

Get a goal. Get a win. It goes away.


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