Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/canadasoccer
Here it is. Canada vs Honduras, the biggest game in a long time for the CanMNT. Who'll be up front? How will they play? Can they progress to the Hex? Can the game just start now?
Here it is, less than 24 hours now and we'll know if Canada's 2014 World Cup run ended, 13 1/2 months and 12 games after it started with that stumbling win over St Lucia, or if we've got at least another year, another 10 games down the road to Brazil. Who else is feeling just a little bit sick right now? Yeah.
Anyway, here's where we currently stand of course.
So, win, tie and we're in. Lose, and we're relying on Cuba beating Panama by 2 goals more than Honduras beats Canada, or by 1 if Canada can score more goals than Panama. It's fair to say relying on the defective Cuban side would be foolish in the extreme, so best not to worry about that. The narrow loss option's off the table.
That's probably for the best really, with Stephen Hart even going so far as to say the most dangerous thing you can tell a team is they need a draw. Fortune favours the brave and all that, Canada won't be sitting back and hoping for a 0-0. After how they played in Panama, that's a good thing.
They obviously won't be going out there all gung ho either, they'll be looking to keep things as tight defensively as they have for the majority of their games, but that won't be by parking the bus. Much like the home game against Honduras, much will rest on the midfield trio of Atiba Hutchinson, Julian de Guzman and Will Johnson pressing high, pushing up to join the forwards in giving the Honduran defence and midfield no time to settle.
It'll be risky in the heat of the Honduran afternoon (Thanks Concacaf. Here's a hint, if Cuba doesn't have floodlights, make sure they're not hosting one of the final games.) but Honduras aren't good enough to have us chasing shadows the whole game. Sitting back to conserve energy and letting them do their thing would be much the greater evil. Put the pressure on, don't give them time to create, make the crowd get on their backs while hopefully causing some turnovers that can lead to chances.
Who those chances will fall to is of course the main source of questions going into the game. With Olivier Occean suspended, will Lucas Cavallini be thrown straight into the starting lineup? Will it be Iain Hume instead? How about Maarcel de Jong taking the left wing spot, allowing Simeon Jackson to move into the middle, or to the right with Tosaint Ricketts in the middle. The possibilities are as plentiful as they are unconvincing really, we just have to hope whoever's out there finds a sudden burst of lethalness that's been lacking so far.
It'll all come down to confidence really, Honduras aren't all that good, if Canada play like they did against Honduras and Panama at home, they can certainly get a result. Play like they did in Panama, like they have done too many times in the past, and they won't. It's simple as that.
Despite what some would say, yes this is a big game. In and of itself it's a minor achievement, but it would serve to open up the chance of a really big achievement a year or so from now as well as continue and speed up the momentum football's getting in this country, even if they didn't play any games in Vancouver.
We got an easy group no doubt, Honduras and Cuba are the 5th and 6th out of the 6 seeded teams and also got lucky with all the Cuban defections, but to get to this stage with 10 points and a very real chance of qualifying is a good thing. There hasn't been one signature game or moment though. Nothing that everyone will be talking about for years to come, a full 90 minutes where Canada did better than expected and got an unexpected reuslt. Are they capable of coming up with that in the literal and metaphorical heat of an afternoon in Honduras? Time to find out.