Soccer

Canada one point away from final World Cup qualifying group

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Shane McNeil, TSN.ca Staff
10/16/2012 12:14:20 PM
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It's a do-or-die game for Canada.

Down to the final game of the third round of CONCACAF qualifying, Canada must gain a point in Honduras today to advance to the fourth and final round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. The final round of CONCACAF qualifying - known colloquially as "The Hex" - will be comprised of the top two finishers in each of the three third-round groupings.

Heading into the game, Canada sits in second place in Group C by virtue of a plus-three goal differential. Panama, who has equaled Canada's 10-point output through three games, has first place with a plus-four goal differential.

Honduras sits in third with eight points.

So, it comes down to one game. If Canada can manage a draw or better against Honduras, they will advance to the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1997.

However, if Canada loses to Honduras, they must hope that Panama loses to Cuba – who have not scored a goal so far in qualifying – by one more goal than their own margin of loss. Even then, Canada would need to score one more goal than Panama in Tuesday's matches.

Canada has added firepower to its line-up ahead of the pivotal match, recalling striker Lucas Cavallini from his Uruguayan club to replace the suspended Oliver Occean. The 30-year-old Occean was red carded in Canada's match against Cuba Friday after a post-goal incident inside the Cuban net.

In Canada's June 12 home match against Honduras in Toronto the clubs played to a scoreless draw. A similar result would suit the Canadians fine and they go in with the knowledge that Honduras has already been beaten on home soil, dropping a June 8 test against Panama by a score of 2-0.

However, Canada can not afford to underestimate Honduras: a team that qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Canada finished last in its third-round qualification group for the 2010 tournament, pushing its hope for a World Cup return to Rio de Janeiro in 2014.

Honduras actually finished ahead of perennial World Cup contenders Mexico in that grouping, a feat largely helped by beating Canada 3-1 in San Pedro Sula.

Canada can look to its own history, however, in its bid to be one of the final six.

In Canada's one and only World Cup berth in 1986, the team was able to advance to the Finals with a win 3-1 over Honduras at King George V Park in St. John's. The closest Canada has come to a World Cup berth since then was a second-place finish in the final qualification for the 1994 World Cup.

Canada would lose its bid to qualify for that tournament with a penalty-kick loss to Australia in a preliminary play-off game.

Mexico is the only team thus far to have qualified for the final round in CONCACAF, having posted a 5-0 record thus far in Group B. Costa Rica and El Salvador are vying for the final place in that group, while two of the United States, Guatemala and Jamaica will advance from Group A.

Canada celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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