Soccer: Canada gets its point

Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:59 PM ET

A goalless draw Friday night in the Caribbean secured Canada a place in the next stage of World Cup qualifying after finishing ahead of hosts St. Kitts and Nevis in CONCACAF’s second round.

But in failing to score for a second straight match against a pair of island nations Canada was supposed to dominate, head coach Stephen Hart voiced his concern minutes after the match despite having secured the needed result.

“We need to start playing like we need to play when we’re away from home,” Hart told Sportsnet.ca. “I don’t think we passed the ball well at all … we came here and said all we need to do is get a point.”

While some would say mission accomplished, a dangerous header from St. Kitts’ Keith Gumbs inside 10 minutes set the pace for a nervy match that could have made next week’s return crucial.

Rehashing the poor form that saw it produce a disappointing draw with Puerto Rico last month, the islanders had more attempts than Canada but lacked quality around the penalty area to produce what would have been a shocking lead.

Facing the smallest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Canada struggled to match St. Kitts’ athleticism and energy through the opening hour with the hosts having to win to stay alive in 2014 qualifying.

A first half that saw limited chances picked up after the break when appeals for a penalty in the 59th minute were waved off by the referee who ruled a foul on Canada’s Adam Sraith to have taken place outside the area.

The close to 2,000 at Warner Park rose to their feet on the ensuing free kick when a second header from Gumbs sailed wide of the near-post and into the side netting.

Trading opportunities on the hour, Dwayne De Rosario came close to relieving the surprising pressure when his header from Simeon Jackson’s cross sailed just over the bar.

Although its defence held up for most of the match, Canada continued its disappointing theme of playing down to its opponents in a group it was expected to run away with.

St. Kitts had a final say 10 minutes from time when a long-range effort from Kareem Mitchum forced ’keeper Lars Hirschfeld to push the knuckling attempt out for a corner. Canada failed to deal with ensuing corner that bounced around inside the goal box and nearly led to an opener for the home side.

Seemingly aware of the poor effort, the Canadians abstained from celebration at the final whistle, knowing similar performances likely won’t be enough next summer.

“We didn’t perform well,” Hart said. “We gave away the ball and gave them opportunities to attack. We gave them far too man chances to cross balls into the box.”

The result moves Canada into CONCACAF’s 12-nation semifinal round — a stage featuring three groups of four countries where Canada will play another six matches.

The top two finishers from each of the region’s three semifinal groups will qualify for CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying. The top three final round finishers receive an automatic place at Brazil in 2014.

Canada hasn’t advanced beyond the semifinal round since 1998.

The next round begins next June with Canada looking to advance from a favourable draw alongside Honduras, Cuba and Panama.

The Reds return to BMO Field next Tuesday for a now meaningless sixth and final second-round match against St. Kitts and Nevis.


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