|Canada striker Iain Hume fights for possession with Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa during FIFA World Cup qualifying at BMO Field in Toronto, Ont., June 12, 2012. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - I have a suggestion for Canada Soccer.
When the Canadian men’s national team gathers for the second part of third round World Cup qualifying in September, hire a judo instructor.
Because one of the first things you learn in judo (and I know from experience) is how to fall properly. And falling is a part of the game that Canadian players have never excelled, much to their detriment — especially compared to national sides from the CONCACAF region like Honduras, the team Canada faced Tuesday night.
And then, after the judo lesson, hire a professional mime artist to teach the Canadian players the art of dramatic hand movements and gesticulation — another part of their game that Canada has yet to perfect.
That’s how it works. When a national team from some CONCACAF nations find themselves in trouble, falling (diving) and gesticulating (pleading for calls) becomes the norm. And what’s worse, almost always, CONCACAF referees reward them. In the first half of Tuesday’s Canada-Honduras World Cup qualifier at Toronto’s BMO Field, Canada controlled the play. So what did the visitors from Central America do? They dived and waved their arms, of course. And got rewarded for it. The judo and mime things are a joke, but, clearly, Canadian teams have to learn how to play the game.
Diving in soccer is frustrating to watch, but it’s not only tolerated, it’s encouraged. If Canada wants to start getting more calls, they have to do what sides like Honduras do: Dive and plead.
That was the most frustrating aspect of Tuesday’s game. Canada did dominate play and possession, and certainly had the best and most scoring chances. But Honduras responded by flopping, particularly late in the first and second half. Many times, Canadian teams are out-classed on the pitch (Canada is ranked 77th in the world). But sometimes, like in Tuesday’s clash, they aren’t, but they don’t get any favors from the referee, though to the ref’s credit (Enrico Wijngaarde of Suriname) on Tuesday, the Honduran players did not get all the calls they pleaded for — And they pleaded constantly.
The other big disadvantage Canadian teams face in international play is the lack of an intimidation factor when they play at home. Tuesday’s game at BMO Field was certainly no embarrassment for the home side — as Toronto crowds for Canadian internationals have been in the past. There was significant Honduras support, but the crowd was considerably pro-Canada, especially the south side supporters, who were loud and boisterous just like at Toronto FC games — though the attendance (16,132) was nothing to write home about.
But there was no intimidation, which is what visiting teams face when they play in places like Honduras and Panama — two of the three nations Canada has to play in this round. There was a sense after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw that the Canadian players were relieved more than anything that the crowd wasn’t overwhelming pro-visiting team (as games in Toronto have been in the past).
“Awesome,” said Canadian ’keeper Milan Borjan, when asked about the home support. “It gives us a 12th man. (But) we need more fans to come to the stadium.”
It would be nice, for once, if a visiting side felt a bit of anxiety and trepidation when they play in Canada.
This current Canadian side is certainly one of the best Canada Soccer has assembled in years — even in the absence of reluctant participants Jonathan de Guzman and Junior Hoilett. An impressive draw against the Americans (the 28th ranked side in the world) and a 1-0 win in sweltering Havana on what could be described as a cow patch (both last week), were impressive results.
Though Tuesday’s game finished with both teams getting a point, Canada dominated. Though, as usual, they’re downfall was a lack of finish.
Still, this is a team that have people believing that, with a bit of luck, they could break through and qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
“We have good quality players on this squad,” Canadian forward Olivier Occean said. “We know each other now, we’ve been together for a while, and I expected to dominate the game.”