Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Alas, all is lost... mere fool's hope for Canadian men

No Gold Cup goals in four years

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It is at times such as this, when Canada's men's national team is once again bumbling through an international competition, that it can be helpful to remember the words of Gandalf the Grey: "There was never much hope; just a fool's hope."

(It's fascinating how many of The Lord of the Rings wizard's speeches can be repurposed for sports.)

Spot kicks

 

On Friday Real Madrid acquired Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad for Ǩ39 million. Illarramendi, 23, starred as the San Sebastian side finished fourth in La Liga last season and qualified for the Champions League. One of Spain's top, young talents look for him to be part of the team Vicente del Bosque takes to the World Cup in June.

Further to Illarramendi, while clubs in Spain, Germany and even France snatch up some of the most high-profile names on the transfer market their counterparts in England are being left with the scraps. Although the likes of Fernandinho (Man City), Paulinho (Spurs) and Andre Schurrle (Chelsea) are decent players they are hardly at the level of Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Neymar (Barcelona) and Falcao (Monaco).

A couple of teams I'll be keeping an eye on this season: Fiorentina and Southampton. Serie A side Fiorentina have so far added Joaquin (Malaga) and Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan) to a group largely overhauled last summer while the Premier League's Southampton have already signed Dejan Lovren (Lyon) and Victor Wanyama (Celtic).

Canada's hopes for progressing to at least the quarter-final round of the ongoing CONCACAF Gold Cup -- shredded in an opening-day loss against Martinique -- were left even more threadbare following Thursday's 2-0 defeat to Mexico, and with a high-scoring, lopsided win over first-place Panama their only remaining route to the knockout stages it would seem The Reds are destined for yet another early exit from the biennial competition.

Because -- and let's not kid ourselves here -- Canada will not find the necessary offence to beat a Canaleros side that just might be co-favourites with the United States to lift the trophy on July 28. They might not even score a single goal.

At least no one's expecting them to.

After all, when the first ball is kicked in Denver, Sunday, Canada will have gone 605 minutes plus stoppages without a Gold Cup goal from open play. And, what's worse, they have rarely looked like scoring over their four-year barren spell.

In his press conference following the Mexico loss, interim manager Colin Miller insisted his team had "showed maturity in possession" despite failing to find the back of the net in Seattle.

"To pick the group up (after losing to Martinique) and get them ready for the powerhouse that Mexico are speaks volumes," he told the Canadian Press.

Optimism

An admirable, if not desperate, attempt at positivity to be sure, but then again Miller and his players will need to summon all the optimism available to them if they're to avoid a third straight defeat at this tournament and fifth loss in seven Gold Cup matches since 2009.

To that end, Toronto FC midfielder Kyle Bekker will be counted on to at least reproduce his solid showing from the Mexico loss against Panama. The 22-year-old was Canada's most creative playmaker over his 83 minutes on Thursday and even outplayed highly rated Mexican prospect Marco Fabi°n in stretches.

Keven Aleman, too, could well get an extended look on Sunday. An international debutant against Mexico, the 19-year-old Costa Rican-born midfielder plays his club football in the youth ranks at Real Valladolid and showed encouraging flashes of attacking nous in his brief cameo at CenturyLink Field.

Those two players, combined with central defenders David Edgar and Doneil Henry and the possible return of Vancouver Whitecaps action-man Russell Teibert, should provide Canada with the faintest of hopes ahead of the Panama showdown.

Not much hope, mind you. Just a fool's hope.

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @JerradPeters

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 0

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