July 9, 2007
The host with the leastCanada shut out in U-20 play
By TERRY JONES
What's worse than being the only host team in the entire history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup to not score a goal?
Being the only team in the tournament to not score a goal!
That one was added to the list late as New Zealand broke their bubble just before Canada went on the field.
There's more, of course.
With a 2-0 loss to Congo, Canada became the first country to be held off the scoresheet in three separate tournaments (1985, 2001, 2007).
The country that made it to one World Cup (and didn't win a game or score a goal in that one, either) brought the humiliation home as host of the biggest soccer event in Canadian history.
"Today is not a day to analyze soccer in Canada," said coach Dale Mitchell.
No. There are many days ahead as he begins the job of attempting to qualify Canada's senior team to the 2010 World Cup.
But add this to the list of Canadian sports hosting failures which include no gold medal at the 1976 Montreal and 1988 Calgary Olympic hostings as well as the 2001 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, where the only medal of any variety won by Canada was in a wheelchair event.
In reality, the Canadians didn't even make it to the third game of group play alive.
TWO AND OUT
They were two and out.
It was over before the game began.
Canada went into the game needing to win by three goals.
"It will always be a tall order for us to know we have to score three goals to get through," said Mitchell.
The Canadians only had two shots on goal in their first two games.
Now they needed three goals. Minimum.
A crowd of 32,058 spectators found themselves sitting in a downpour knowing the only hope would be if the rain turned to snow.
Canada was still alive and not the only team in the tournament not to score a goal when 29,792 came to the park to watch New Zealand play Mexico in the first game, while Portugal and Gambia kicked off in Montreal.
But then Greg Draper of New Zealand and Abdoulie Mansally of Gambia became part of Canada's horrid history in men's soccer.
It was in the 89th minute when Draper scored for New Zealand.
A few minutes later the final whistle went in Montreal - after Mansally scored the winner for Gambia to upset Portugal 2-1.
A Portugal win by two goals and Canada would have simply had to beat the Congo to advance. But a loss and they needed three.
When Congo scored first in the 35th minute, Canada needed four goals!
"It was like it wasn't meant to be," said Canadian forward Will Johnson.
The rain was absolutely pouring down and the fans, who couldn't get into the game to watch the first half of the Austria game because of the ticketing fiasco, were headed home by the half in this one.
When Congo made it 2-0 in the 61st minute, five goals was what Canada needed!
At that point they had exactly five shots on goal for the tournament.
SIX WHOLE SHOTS
In the end the Canadians had a whole six shots on goal, which is great, unless you realize they had 13 corner kicks and two direct free kicks.
"People who say we can't score ... I don't know what more we could have done," said Johnson.
Uh, hit the net?
"I thought we played our best game of the tournament but we still have to put the ball in the net," said Mitchell. "I'm not claiming we should have been one of the teams to advance."
In the end it was slapstick when Canadian 'keeper Asmir Begovic of Edmonton was red carded for handling the ball outside the box. With no substitutes left, midfielder Johnathan Beaulieu-Bourgault had to replace him.
The saddest thing here is that in the same city where Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang and so many of their teammates made their names in the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championships, nobody other than maybe Begovic entered the Canadian consciousness from this event.
They weren't even in their own tournament.