Canada closes out the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Tuesday when it plays Costa Rica at Toronto’s BMO Field.
Here’s what you need to know about this match.
Canada failed to score through its first two matches of the tournament, a goal-less draw against El Salvador and a 1-0 loss to Jamaica.
As a result, the Reds sit bottom of Group B with one point, behind Jamaica (four points), and Costa Rica and El Salvador (two points apiece). Jamaica plays El Salvador at BMO Field prior to Canada’s game. The top two teams advance to the quarterfinals, while the two best third-place sides in the three-group, 12-team tournament also move on.
What does Canada have to do?
There are a number of permutations in play for the Reds depending on how the Jamaica-El Salvador match shakes out, and on what happens in Group C action on Wednesday night.
What we know for sure is that a loss would eliminate Canada. Also, a win would clinch Canada a berth in the quarterfinals.
A draw might be good enough to see Canada progress as one of the third-place teams, provided Jamaica beats El Salvador and if the Group C game between Guatemala and Cuba ends in a draw.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” Canadian captain Julian de Guzman admitted. “We realize the situation we’re in at this point. (Tuesday’s) game is pretty much like a final.”
Goal scoring an issue
Coach Benito Floro has come in for some criticism from both fans and media for his cautious approach at this tournament—he deployed one striker in a 4-1-4-1 formation against two beatable opponents in El Salvador and Jamaica, and has also made some questionable player selections, overlooking dynamic midfielders Russell Teibert and Jonathan Osorio.
Floro, though, doesn’t plan on making wholesale changes, and maintains that sticking with his current team structure that stresses defensive organization is the way to go.
“I think it’s normal. Soccer is a game with (a lot of opinions) from spectators and journalists. Everyone can have an idea about how to play. But we have created a structure that depends on the quality of the players,” Floro told reporters after the team’s training session on Monday.
“We don’t have the skill or competitiveness of (other teams) but we resolve that with a structure, which means a formation with good balance to allow us to attack. Our forwards, and wingers and fullbacks are constantly trying to get into 2v1 (situations), but if we don’t have a strong (defensive) base, that would be impossible.”
Line-up changes for Canada
Central midfielder Samuel Piette and right fullback Nik Ledgerwood are suspended for this game—they both picked up a pair of yellow cards through the first two group stage games.
Floro could move Adam Straith back into the centre of defence (he started as a midfielder protecting the back four in the first two games) and shift centre-back Dejan Jakovic to right fullback.
Central defender David Edgar is sitting on one yellow. If he picks up another one against Cost Rica he’s be suspended for the quarterfinal round, assuming Canada qualifies. If Edgar doesn’t earn a caution on Tuesday, his yellow card gets wiped out, and he would start with a clean slate in the next round.
BMO: Home sweet home
Canada is undefeated at BMO Field since a 2-0 loss to Peru in September 2010. The Reds have gone 6-0-4 there since, winning their last four games, including last month’s World Cup qualifier against Dominica.
Head to head
Costa Rica is ranked No. 41 in the FIFA world rankings, the third-highest ranked team in CONCACAF. Canada is at No. 103.
According to FIFA statistics, Los Ticos lead the all-time series against the Reds with eight wins and seven draws in 19 games. Costa Rica won the previous meeting—a 2013 friendly in Edmonton—and hasn’t lost to Canada since the group stage of the 2003 Gold Cup.
These teams battled to a 1-1 draw in 2007 in their previous meeting at BMO Field. The last time they met in the Gold Cup, in 2009, it ended in 2-2 draw.