Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada whips undermanned Cuba

Cubans play with 11 men after defections

  • Print

FIFA Law 3, paragraph 16: "A match shall not be considered valid and shall be abandoned by the referee if fewer than seven players remain on either team."

In other words, 10 Cuban footballers would have had to defect ahead of Friday's World Cup qualifier against Canada for the 3-0 match to have been called off. As it happened, only five walked across the bridge at Niagara Falls, leaving 11 of their former teammates to face a desperate Canadian side in Toronto.

The Free Press was able to speak with someone who was at United States customs on Thursday evening, and while he requested anonymity he confirmed the Cubans had been detained on site. The defectors claimed they were "fleeing for their lives," and a customs agent joked that the match at BMO Field would have to be cancelled as there wouldn't be enough Cuban players to field a team.

There were just enough for a full side, as it turned out, although manager Chandler Gonzalez had no one in reserve to use as a substitution -- something he would surely have liked to have done in the 70th minute when forward Roberto Linares (one of only two Cuban players who also faced Canada in June in Havana) was given his marching orders.

At the time Canada led by only a goal -- a 14th-minute Toisant Ricketts tally helped by some good work by Ante Jazic down the left -- and were struggling to make their superior possession numbers count.

The numerical advantage helped them find a second just two minutes later, but as Olivier Occean dug the ball out of the back of the net following Will Johnson's strike he was shown a straight red card for what referee Javier Santos judged to be a shove on goalkeeper Odelin Molina.

It was a harsh decision, and as a result Canada will be without the Eintracht Frankfurt striker when they conclude their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying third-round campaign in Honduras on Tuesday.

As record Canadian goal scorer Dwayne De Rosario will also miss the match with a knee injury, manager Stephen Hart will have to fall back on one of Ricketts, Simeon Jackson and Iain Hume to lead the line in San Pedro Sula.

It's hardly an ideal set of circumstances, but qualifying for a World Cup from the North and Central American and Caribbean region has never been an easy assignment.

Last month the Canadian hotel was surrounded by revellers in Panama City whose attempt at keeping the players awake through the night paid off with a sleepy performance the following day. Whether it's late-night supporters' parties, international defections or questionable refereeing, the path to the World Cup is rarely more intriguing than in CONCACAF.

Not that any of the extracurriculars are in any way helpful to a Canadian team looking to punch a ticket to the World Cup for just a second time.

Canada is likely to require at least a draw from Tuesday's match against Honduras to progress to the fourth and final round of qualifying, and while they'd like nothing better than to spend the next few days concentrating solely on soccer they'll have learned by now that success in this region means not only beating what's in front of you, but sustaining the random, broadside blows as well.

That's just life in CONCACAF. Cuba served up a reminder of it this week, and goodness knows there will be more than a few strange happenings between now and 2014.

On paper, Canada are good enough to go into the pot when the World Cup draw is held in 13 months. But to get to that point, to get to Brazil, they'll have to both win their matches and navigate the peculiar soccer landscape in which they find themselves.

 

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @peterssoccer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2012 C7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The Whiteboard - Jets' 5-on-3 penalty kill

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 24, 2012 - 120624  -  Amusement riders on the last day of The Ex Sunday June 24, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • The sun peers through the fog to illuminate a tree covered in hoar frost near Headingley, Manitoba Thursday- Standup photo- February 02, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How will you be spending the holiday season? (select all that apply)

View Results

Ads by Google