It lasted 131 days. It began with great joy on a hot afternoon in Cuba and ended in utter disgrace on a hot afternoon in Honduras.

What happened in between was unprecedented in Canada. More and more people began to care what the national team was doing. Three home games in Toronto built momentum and each attracted between 16,000 and 18,000 fans with the majority, unusually, supporting the men in red.

After all, 2012 has been a year of great celebration – led by the women’s team winning bronze in London and of course the centennial celebrations highlighted by a friendly against USA in June. When the dust settles, what cannot be forgotten is Canada’s qualifying campaign, despite the humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras at the final hurdle.

History will be a lot kinder to this men’s team than what today and tomorrow will bring. You see, they’ve been around a while, rolled with the punches and failed before when far less people cared. The problem they have right now is the spotlight is bigger than ever on them and on the biggest of stages they reached a new low for even the most loyal long-serving Canadian soccer fan (who have been through a lot with this team).

That being said, falling flat on one’s face at the sixth hurdle after getting through five is an achievement for this bunch of players. It was called the team’s biggest game in a decade for a reason, they’d simply achieved something they had not got close to in the past three World Cup qualifying campaigns and that should not be forgotten. Losing 8-1 to Honduras was pathetic but going into the final match in the group with qualification in their own hands is something this side should not simply be expected to do. They are not good enough. Yet expectations were higher than ever for some reason.

Perhaps, it was the ten points they’d achieved in the five games up to this, the four clean sheets along the way and the defensive solidity as a team that they’d shown. However, beneath the layer of such evidence lay massive cracks in their armour. An inability to score goals (5 in 5 games) and convert chances that weren’t laid on a plate for a player. A lack of width that could stretch good teams not called Cuba. And most importantly a constant problem taking over games and controlling them away from home. Against Panama they were accused of ‘not showing up’ and showing a ‘lack of heart’, yet to throw such charges their way must mean there has been evidence in the past of the contrary, away from home against technically better Concacaf sides.

The same allegations have been said by the media once again following the 8-1 thrashing.

It is easy to jump on players for the lack of urgency, heart or desire when they are down 4-0 after 32 minutes and equally easy to destroy their coach. However, it was not Stephen Hart on the pitch for the first 32 minutes when the team collectively defended poorly on all four goals. It was not Stephen Hart who failed to put away a great scoring chance in the box after 71 seconds when the score was 0-0. Yet it was Stephen Hart who offered this comment immediately following the match.

“I don’t want to blame the players. It was my responsibility.”

Hart must take some responsibility for this loss, of course, but to castigate him after this not only takes away what he did with an average bunch of players to get here but also allows the players off the hook. Ultimately, eleven players went out on that field in Honduras and didn’t perform. Football coaches get too much praise when their team succeeds and too much blame when their team fails. Hart may ultimately be sacrificed and needs to be asked about certain personnel and tactical decisions but he is not the reason Canada’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign ended today.

If they’d been drawn away to Honduras earlier in the campaign it would have been over before now. Be thankful, Canada, for three meaningful home games at this stage and for the small signs of progress this team has shown up to now. October 16th, 2012 will go down as a painful day in the history of this side but until a long-term plan is put in place for player development, get used to watching this side struggle away from home against teams like Honduras and Panama. Get used to being outplayed by the likes of Mario Martinez, Arnold Peralta, Emilio Izaguirre, Armando Cooper and Amilcar Henriquez. Technical, skillful young players Canada can only dream of producing.

It’s okay to be disappointed, even despondent, at an 8-1 crushing, but at least now people have a better idea of the talent pool available to Canada compared to teams they must bypass to reach the promise land.

Kristian Jack

Comments (21)

  1. The CMNT haven’t been able to score in open play for 2 years under Hart against teams ranked in the top 100, despite in most of these games having players with better pedigree playing in better leagues than its opponents. Obviously the problem is the coach. Get a clue!

    Can’t blame Hart however. He had never coached a single professional or INTL match before taking over the manager/coach job. Nice rookie assignment.

    • Keep in mind this is the closest they’ve been to making the hex in four qualifying cycles. Every time we go out we blame the coach and feel like our players underachieved. It’s time to admit our player pool is absurdly thin and our players are not as talented as what the general consensus of opinion is in this country.

      • Right on Joe….the problem with Canadian fans generally is that they approach all their sports like hockey, but the irony is that other sports don’t thrive as they could becuase hockey is such a beast in this country.

        In this particular instance, they’ve come with the attitude that the CMNT will achieve something special because a)the CWNT did really well ,so of course the men will too, and b)that the guys would do really well in Honduras because everyone’s cheering for them really loud back at home (never mind the talent gap, because heart and a maple leaf on your shirt is what wins games).

  2. After only being a small step away from the knock out round for WC2014, Canada failed to step up to the plate, and show any type of passion and desire to get something from this game. And of course, a few key questions need to be asked…

    Was the team set out to play for a draw? Or were they set out to play as they have throughout qualifying?

    What was the halftime team talk like to try and salvage some pride in the 2nd half? Was there one? Or was it a silent room, with heads down with no inspiration from the gaffer?

    Finally, was that Canada’s BEST 11 out there?

    The questions are endless, but 1 thing is for certain, Canada does not have the talent to compete on the world stage. We have a few classy players in Atiba and Julian (who looked off from the start)…but besides them, who else is there???

    Hart can only work with what he has…which isn’t much. As it goes from a classic Mourinho interview : “There’s many types of eggs. The better the eggs, the better the omelette.” But in arguing with that, an average chef would be able to muster a decent omelette with lower grade eggs no?

    Wheres does Canada go from here? Hart should be sacked or he should resign, immediately. Then the new manager should start from scratch. Bring in quality youth, and work towards a common playing style which will identify Canadian soccer.

    Personally, I’ve always found it hard to believe that this country can’t field a better team, considering this country is so multi-cultural, and I can guarantee there is quality lost between the cracks of the Provincial and National systems for whatever reasons (you can decide on what those are. Ex: money, daddy doesn’t know the coach etc)

    As a proud Canadian and huge soccer fan, today was painful, and I hope, somehow, we can move forward and focus on the future.

  3. I can just smell the KJ, Hart man crush. I can just smell iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

    Hart made a mistake: He told his players and made them think that they were good enough as they are to compete and get a point from this game. Absolutely retarded.

    He should’ve taken a back four, added a fullback or two (or two defenders), a packed midfield, no strikers, only one attacking forward and PACKED THE BIGGEST BUS CONCACAF HAS EVER SEEN. Honduras woundn’t have been able to do shit.

    HE SHOULD’VE PLAYED CAVALLINI FROM THE START. “Oh! But Didier! It’s so much pressuuUUUUuuuUUUuuure!!!”

    FCK IT. HE’S BEEN ON TWITTER ALL DAY YESTERDAY SAYING HE’S PUMPED. GIVE HIM THE START AND LET HIM WREAK HAVOC ON THAT PATHETIC HONDURAN DEFENCE.

    It’s Hart’s fault for not teaching WILL JOHNSON HOW TO PASS A BALL TO ANOTHER TEAM MATE. Or maybe it isn’t…perhaps he just sucks that bad.

    Yes the players shit the boat today, but the tactics were all wrong and the personal could’ve been better and Canada would’ve AT LEAST HAD A CHANCE TO GET SOMETHING FROM THIS GAME.

    Instead he and the team threw it away. Fck it. I’mma buy 2014 World Cup for xbox and rectify this sh#t.

  4. Should’ve parked the biggest bus Hart…*tears up*…should’ve parked it…

  5. KJ what do you think the next move is for this squad? Do you feel like when we remove the older players (Dero, McKenna, Lars, JDG) and replace them with a few young guys that we have enough pieces as it is to continue to develop? Is it better to just gut the squad and let all of the young guys play out the Gold Cup next year?

    My feelings immediately following the game echoed your own in that I felt there is only so much that Hart can do, but no matter what lineup he selected from the available players,the fact that the loss became so bad is solely the responsibility of the players. Having said that I think his personnel decisions need to be questioned and that we need to move on, hopefully finding someone with international, and particularly CONCACAF, experience. Id prefer to let the youg guys get run outs. Not a full gutting, but at least sprinkle some of the young guys in with the callups, rather than running out the same lineup every match for the next four year cycle.

    A dark day for the program but I hope it doesnt result in the 6+ year setback that some are projecting.

    • You make some great points – avoid the full gutting of the program for sure – time will tell about the next generation but I think the lack of depth will be a major problem for years to come.

  6. Let’s bring in Aaron Winter and comitt to total football. Honestly, he is a great technical coach, he may not have been a good “club” coach but I think he’d be a refreashing change for a National Coach.

    • Hmmm. Aaron Winter? actually I think that might be a good idea. Someone who knows a little about the region from his TFC coaching. And more importantly, has the ability to teach technical skills to our younger players. Its time to start with the new generations, start looking at our under 21′s and younger.

    • Good point…national team is all about system. You can achieve a lot just by everyone understanding their role and executing it.

  7. Hart got them further than anyone else, some of these players arent even trying. Its hard to believe this is the team we stood behind and cheered. Its funny, people question why Canada is moving into the LTPD and taking away scores to replace with touches on the ball. This game should be the response. The system doesn’t work now. Its back to planning. Getting the younger players to play abroad, gain some experience with better technical staff. We have a long way to go. This was too good to be true. Sadly.

  8. This hurts. Forget deguzman and hoillet. I dont want them on my team. Build on this for the next one. Build a soccer culture in this country.

  9. I think the first thought that comes to my mind about this game, is Hart’s choices. The Old tired legs of our players, and the idiocy of JDG2 pre-game (and seeing De Guzman respond on twitter!).

    But I will say this about your article, I know these players are not the greatest, or haven’t played the greatest, but, can we remember Messi for Argentina before Sabella. Some people were readily claiming that Messi was good based on the team he was on (Barcelona) and not that special of a player. They would point to his Argentina performances where he seemed lost and out of sync. Where his fantastic touch and movement seemed to be missing. Under Sabella it’s been a different ball game.

    I know that I am more Euro-centric, but I struggle with the fact that we have players who play regularly in the Bundesliga, and mid-echolons of European Football and that they get trounced 8-1 by players like Martinez, and also players like Victor Bernardez? Carlos Costly? Simeon Jackson scored goals in the Championship and in Div 1. Carlos Costly was out of contract and signed for Veria. Victor Bernardez is on a team that is currently playing well, but they leaked goals (40).

    So that’s why the buck has to stop at Hart. He couldn’t get the best out of his players, he couldn’t maximize their skills and reduce their weaknesses. But I also don’t want to see half that team in our Jersey again. I really don’t see how they can continue.

  10. The MNT performance today was awful and embarrassing. The necessary skill level doesn’t exist within the national squad and the available talent pool is very thin.

    As the father of a young rep player, I’ve recently noticed and been impressed with the large number of of players with above average skill level on both his club and others.Their clubs are now following LTPD program. I’m confident that the nation team will ultimately benefit from that program, however, it’s going to take 10 to 15 years to see the fruits.

  11. More money needs to be put into Canadian soccer. Player development needs improvement, focus should be put on the youth if we are to compete at all on the International level. Long road to 2018.

  12. The Fix? I wonder…please say it wasn’t so boys…

    Some of those defensive duties today looked pretty house league today…

  13. A sad ending to what looked like a promising chance to get to the last round of qualifying. Still, the obvious is we aren’t able to produce enough skillfull players in Canada. Surprizing given that twice as many play Soccer than Hockey.

  14. I was upset until I heard that this loss has made De Guzman’s brother decide not to play for Canada. Couldn’t be happier!

  15. Im shocked a guy I enjoy watching break down tactics cannot see that Hart is way out of his league tactically.

  16. Decided to let the dust settle before posting…..I think I agree with a lot here…so my synopis has two distinct issues:

    1) The talent pool is low- cant be argued and even adding a player or two wont make a ton of difference.

    2) Coaching is about making the best of what you have – THe line up was just way off base the other night and Hart is to blame. Imagine if : ( Mentally produce formation geek Subbuteo table here)

    a) Canada had lined up in say a 5-4-1 …or a 4-2-3-1, or 4-3-2-1 , in all cases the attitude was to “park the bus” and play for a counter attack.

    b) Space was denied anyway in the Canadian half by playing very tight lines

    c) After thrity goaless minutes the home crowd had started to transmit nervousness to the home players

    Yes our talent pool is low , but a great coach can inspire and get a team working hard withion thier own limitations. Hart is a classic nice guy who is loved by the players , but that isnt how Fergie got successful, or Jose, or Shankly and certainly not Cloughie.

    Is there a coach of that classs for the Canada boys , likely not, but Harts 4-4-2 was inexcusable at this level !!!!

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