Canada set for next step in World Cup qualifying

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:08 PM ET

Dale Mitchell was a forward on Tony Waiters' 1986 club, the most recent time a Canadian men's soccer team qualified for a World Cup.

Twenty-two years later, Mitchell is the man who will coach the squad that hopes to bring that overdue absence from the world's biggest soccer stage to an end.

Canada takes the next step toward that goal on Wednesday at BMO Field when it will play host to Jamaica in the first of six games of third-round qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Canada will have to finish first or second in the group that includes world No. 32 Mexico and No. 61 Honduras to qualify for the fourth and final round of qualifying. Canada is ranked 79th in the world while Jamaica is No. 108.

Mitchell announced his lineup for this round yesterday and is going with experience and quality.

"Every player we asked for is coming in," Mitchell said.

Unfortunately, and this is par for the course when it comes to the national team, getting the players back home and prepared to play is never an easy task. With a variety of European league players and Major League Soccer types, Mitchell expects to get in only one full practice with his entire team before Wednesday's game.

"It is not enough but it is what it is and it's the same for everyone," Mitchell said. "It's FIFA rules and it's a single date so the players only have to be released 48 hours before because they all have games on the weekend. There will be twice when we have to deal with this. The first game and the last game against Jamaica. The one thing that is probably going to even itself out is that both teams have a number of players playing in Europe right now."

Mitchell did have a full month with the team -- an almost unheard of luxury -- during the previous round of qualifying in June when Canada swept a two-game series against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

"To be able to get the players for that length of time was a big positive," Mitchell said. "I feel like the group has come together well and they're ready for this stage of the qualifying."

While Canada finds itself in the toughest of the three groups for this round, it does have the advantage of starting the round with two home games. Mitchell believes how Canada fares in the home games -- one each in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton -- will dictate its chances.

"The last couple of times the home games have let us down a little bit," Mitchell said. "We need to get more at home. The formula you would like to stick by in this situation is win the home games and look for your points whether it's a draw or whatever away from home. But if you win your home games you should be in good shape."

More than 18,500 tickets have been sold for Wednesday's game at BMO Field.


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