Sunday, June 01, 2008

Soccer Day in Canada

Okay, I'm a day late according to the CBC, but whatever. If you really want to watch the Red Deer U14 girls, it's all on up on the CBC website anyway.

The marquee game of the day was Toronto FC versus the LA Galaxy, and Toronto came away with a 2-0 win. LA were without David Beckham -- away on with England -- and Landon Donovan was only fit enough for the bench, but Toronto were missing a few regular starters too, through a combination of injuries, suspension and international duty. But their replacements coped admirably, notably rookie defender Julius James, who scored the opening goal on his MLS debut. Jeff Cunningham, given a chance to start with Danny Dichio out, added the second goal in the 65th minute. Overall, a satisfying game, as Toronto dominated throughout and only held the Galaxy to just one shot on target, despite their depleted roster.

Also, earlier in the week, Toronto kicked off their qualifying campaign for the CONCACAF Champions League with a 1-0 victory over the Impact in Montreal. Marco Velez scored the only goal, off a free kick from Laurent Robert.

One game that was missing from the CBC's soccer coverage yesterday was the friendly between Canada and Brazil in Seattle. Sportsnet apparently showed the match this morning, but they did a shitty job of publicizing it, and I missed it. Anyway, Brazil won 3-2, after Canada had fought back twice to tie the game up. Julian de Guzman, who had equalized to make it 2-2 for Canada, played a sloppy back-pass that Robinho pounced on in the 63rd minute, winning it for Brazil with his second goal of the game. Still, it's a decent result for Canada, even considering that Brazil were missing a few of their stars like Kaka and Ronaldinho.

Speaking of the Canadian men's national team, a couple of the players have (finally) come out with their thoughts on the ongoing incompetence of the CSA. No surprise that they're not happy, although you might not have expected them to say so publicly. It'll be interesting to see if this gets the CSA off their collective asses, or if it'll be just more of the same. One interesting point in that article, though, is that they seem to be suggesting that the women's team gets a bigger share of the budget than the men's team does. Anybody know if that's true? Because it doesn't sound right to me. Not that I'm saying the men's team should automatically get more; I would expect it to be split evenly. I suppose the problem with that, though, is that it would mean the men's team is underfunded relative to other countries -- whereas that would be less of an issue for the Canadian women's team, since the women's teams tend to get shafted everywhere.

Somebody asked me the other day what the process is for Canada (and the rest of CONCACAF) in World Cup qualification, and I had no idea, so I thought I'd look it up. (Thank you, Wikipedia.) No wonder I didn't know how it worked, because it's kind of complicated. Basically, there are four stages:

  • The lowest-ranked countries (ranked #14 through #35) play each other in the first round, with the 11 winners moving on; the top 13 teams get a bye.
  • In the second round, which takes place this month, the top 13 teams play the 11 winners from the first round, with the winners of these games again moving on. Canada will be playing St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on June 15 and 20.
  • The third stage is a round-robin, with three groups of four teams. The top two teams in each group advance. Assuming that Canada makes it to this stage, along with the other top-seeded teams, it'll face Mexico, Jamaica and Honduras.
  • In the final round, the six remaining teams all play each other, and the top three teams from that qualify for the World Cup. The fourth-place team gets a play-off against the fifth-place team from South America. Canada should have a decent chance; assuming that the USA and Mexico get the first two spots, then Canada will be scrapping it out with teams like Costa Rica and Panama for third or fourth place.

The Canadian women's team, meanwhile, is busy tuning up for the Olympics. Their last match was a 2-1 loss to Australia in a friendly last weekend. This month they travel to Korea for the Peace Queen Cup, and then July 10 will be their debut at BMO Field, against Brazil. I'm just hoping that they get a decent turnout, because the stands at the men's U20 game against Argentina a few weeks ago were embarassingly empty.

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