MONTREAL — Three months after being appointed coach of the Canadian men’s soccer team, Octavio Zambrano will finally get his chance to oversee a game.
Canada faces Curacao in a friendly on Tuesday evening at Stade Saputo, a warm-up match for both nations ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. The Reds have been placed into a difficult group at the continental competition with Costa Rica, Honduras and French Guiana, so this game is vitally important to help Zambrano’s side to prepare.
After spending the last 10 days training in Montreal and neighbouring Laval, Zambrano admitted he looks forward to seeing some real action and has been impressed with the group of players he’s assembled ahead of Tuesday’s tilt.
“I’m extremely motivated,” Zambrano told reporters in a press conference at Stade Saputo on Monday. “The last three months have been a finding out process of the inner-workings of [the Canadian Soccer Association] and trying to build the senior team. I think we have a solid group”.
This training camp has been used to work on implementing fundamental tactics such as defensive organization and set piece deliveries, but as Montreal Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier explained, eventually Zambrano wants to see Canada play an attacking brand of soccer.
“The reality is that in CONCACAF or anywhere else, you have to score goals. Canada’s been more recognized for its defending, but there’s a lot of young attacking talent in this team,” Bernied offered.
Vancouver Whitecaps teenage prospect Alphonso Davies was called into the side for the first time just one week after passing his citizenship test and becoming a full Canadian citizen.
Zambrano didn’t say whether Davies would start the game, but the exciting 16-year-old will surely get some minutes against Curacao.
“He’s a player that makes a difference,” Zambrano stated. “You’ll see when he comes on the field he’s immediately an impact player. I see a bright future for him.”
Zambrano stressed the importance of going about the game in the right way and heading into the Gold Cup with a positive mindset, but the fixture will also provide an opportunity for Canada to improve its positioning in the FIFA rankings. Canada is currently in 109th place, while Curacao is 70th.
With a roster comprised of players based mostly in the Netherlands and the U.K, Curacao won’t be pushovers, but Zambrano wants a decisive victory.
“You can argue about CONCACAF rankings or FIFA rankings and how they arrive to give these position, but the fact of the matter is they are ranked much better than we are,” Zambrano said. “We definitely have to come out and make a statement that Canada is superior to Curacao. We have to do it on the field and not just words.”
The friendly will also be a special occasion for some of the local players. Canada hasn’t played in Montreal since a friendly against Honduras in 2010, a 2-1 win. Midfielder Samuel Piette, who grew up in Repentigny outside Montreal and currently plays in Spain with CD Izarra, says he bought 391 tickets for the game in Section 123.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game in Montreal,” Piette said. I’m really excited to play in front of my family and friends, and to show the fans here who might not know me what I’m worth.”