Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada bows to Honduras in soccer shocker

Blowout loss ends squad's World Cup dreams

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SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- Canada's World Cup dreams were snuffed out in brutal fashion Tuesday as Honduras put them to the sword 8-1 in a do-or-die qualifying match.

It's a bitter pill to swallow for a Canadian team that went into the match with its fate in its own hands and the unswerving belief that it deserved to move on. That is until Tuesday, when the wheels came off the Canadian bus in a shocking display.

Canada entered the hostile confines of a soldout Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano knowing a tie or win would be enough to move on to the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. The Hondurans, looking to please their fans on an extended national holiday, needed a win.

Asked if the moment had got to his team, Canadian coach Stephen Hart offered a one-word answer -- "Yes.

"You're supposed to go down all guns blazing, you're supposed to fight," he added. "You're supposed to die out there.

"We were horrible... It's disturbing to me that the team fell apart."

It was Canada's worst loss since an 8-0 drubbing in Mexico in 1993.

"We pretty much embarrassed ourselves," said midfielder Julian de Guzman.

"We were terrible... It's an absolute low for us," added captain Kevin McKenna.

Honduras' speed and clinical finishing -- combined with Canada's clown-like defending -- ended the suspense very early, racking up four goals in a 25-minute span to lead 4-0 after just 32 minutes. The Central Americans made it look easy against a sluggish Canadian side that simply wasn't up to the challenge.

It was men against boys.

"We let in goals early and fell apart. Mentally and physically," said Hart.

Jerry Bengston and Carlo Costly each scored three goals for Honduras, while Mario Martinez added two of his own.

Substitute Iain Hume scored a consolation goal off a nice free kick in the 76th minute before Bengston restored the six-goal cushion six minutes later as the Canadian defence crumbled around him. Costly then scored on an 88th-minute header to complete the rout.

Hart said personally he thought he had done his best but could have to consider his future in the wake of the "crushing" result.

"All I can do is ask the fans' forgiveness on behalf of the players," said the coach, who has six months remaining on his contract. "I know they'll never forgive me but on behalf of the players, forgive them."

Reminded he was not on the field, Hart said: "It's my responsibility."

McKenna disagreed, saying blame should not be laid at the coach's feet.

"It was all to do with the players. Stephen Hart had us well prepared for every game that we've gone into, at least since I've been with this national team," he said. "It would be a same if they point the finger at the coach. It was all the players.

"We drew Honduras in Canada and we should have won that game. To come down here and to lose 8-1 is devastation."

But someone will likely have to pay for this disaster.

A Canadian Soccer Association spokesman said immediately after the game that president Victor Montagliani would not speak to the media until he had a chance to talk with Hart first.

"There's no excuse," Hart said.

The Honduran reward is a place in the six-country final qualifying round in CONCACAF. Teams will play a home-and-away schedule, with the top three advancing to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2012 C5

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