First versus Second. 22 in the world versus 87. El Tri versus The Reds. Mexico versus Canada. Anyway you put this, Mexico will be Canada's biggest test over their qualifying campaign. The Honduras hurdle was jumped and points were picked up in El Salvador - Canada continues to do what it needs to ensure their passage through to the Hex.
Next up is a hot Mexican team travelling into what the CSA hopes is hostile Canadian territory where any points picked up can be considered mission accomplished. Here is what Canada will need to do to continue their undefeated run and come that much closer to the final round of qualifying.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmoveable object? That question will be answered Friday night as Canada's stalwart defending is put to the test against Mexico's high powered offense. Canada has shutout their previous two qualifying games while Mexico has scored five goals in three-nil and two-nil wins over El Salvador and Honduras respectively. What's more concerning for Canada is that all five Mexican goals have come from five different players, two of which were scored by second half substitutions. If Canada has any motives of picking up points it will be crucial for the Reds to defend from the backline through the midfield for a full ninety minutes.
Even if Canada concedes, goal difference is of the upmost importance as it remains the tie breaker if Canada and (likely) Honduras are on the same points come November. This game should not be played defense first, but will need to maintain the level of confidence and execution if Canada are to get the job done in Vancouver.
Midfield in Transition
With Canada previously playing a 4-3-3 at home against Honduras, the Reds will likely be up against a 4-4-2 of Mexico, who will be very conscious of Canada's counter attacking moves. When Mexico have the ball expect them to keep possession, kill the atmosphere and push Canada to their breaking point in the final third. In defense, Canada's midfield will need to be adaptable as they switch from a 4-3-3 moving forward to either a 4-1-4-1 in defense or even a 4-2-3-1 with De Guzman and Hutchinson playing in front of the back line.
Floro will be prepared to use newcomer Arfield, but his minutes will be dictated by how the game plays out. If Arfield does not start and Canada have few attacking moves in the first half, expect Floro to sub him on to help support the midfield and close down Mexico's attack.
In terms of outside factors, this is as good as it's going to get for national team games. A passionate and imposing crowd, a team with momentum, and an organizational wide belief that Canada can pick up a point, or more, in this game. For all the tangibles that this team has relied on, the strong defense, the counter attacking play, it will be the intangibles that keep this crowd in the game and keep the momentum on Canada's side. The players need the glowing hearts and passion to commit to each tackle, pass and move to keep Mexico from breaking them down both tactically and more importantly, mentally.
In what promises to be one of the most hyped, covered, and supported Canada games in recent memory the Reds will be coming in with full confidence. They have a new midfielder in Scott Arfield, momentum in qualifying, and a sold out BC place to create a rowdy atmosphere for the home side. Mexico comes into the game hot, but missing some of its attacking pieces forcing them to lean on the remainder of the team. If El Tri play a traditional 4-4-2, aware of Canada's counter attacking moves, they will be confident in shutting down the Reds in the final third. While Canada's defense has proved their own bend-don't-break mentality it should be enough to keep the Mexican's off the scoreboard. Canada's attack up front will have waves of momentum but in the end will not have the prowess to get the goal they so desperately want. In the end, both teams will be content with a point before heading to Mexico City for the next game. Final Score: Canada zero, Mexico zero.