Canada's Dwayne De Rosario and Honduras' Mauricio Sabillon (L) battle for the ball during the second half of their World Cup qualifier soccer match in Toronto on June 12, 2012. Canada resumes CONCACAF's third round Sept. 7 against Panama at BMO Field. (REUTERS)
In two weeks time Canada will resume World Cup qualifying in Toronto against an opponent head coach Stephen Hart knows well.
“They’re a team that is not going to lie down,” Hart said of Panama, who Canada plays in a home-and-away September series.
After two games in June, the Panamanians are atop Group C on six points, followed by Canada (4 points) and Honduras (1 point).
“Panama has been a consistent squad,” Hart continued, confirming scouts were on hand to take in Panama’s 2-0 loss in Portugal on Aug. 15. “We know (Panama) quite well.”
Canada will host Panama at BMO Field on Sept. 7 before playing in Panama City four days later – a pair of matches that will go a long way in determining whether Canada will progress to the region’s final round for the first time since 1998.
“Nothing really changes,” said Hart, when asked how he’ll approach playing the group leaders in quick succession. “It probably is a little bit different …The first priority is the game at home.”
While he admitted to having “tough decision to make,” Hart confirmed Thursday he expects to have a close to full roster at his disposal ahead of Canada’s third game of six third-round CONCACAF qualifiers.
Canada will wrap the current stage of qualifying against Cuba at BMO Field on Oct. 12 before finishing in Honduras on Oct. 16.
While Canada gets set for a pair of matches against Panama, Hart will undoubtedly be fixated on results coming out of Havana, Cuba and San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where the group’s other two teams will do battle in September.
The top two finishers in Canada’s four-team group will advance to the final round of six teams next year, from which three nations will automatically qualify for Brazil 2014.
Canada is looking to qualify for its first FIFA World Cup since 1986.