The Canadian men’s national soccer team just can’t seem to avoid Honduras. This morning’s draw for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, again paired the two familiar foes in the competition’s Group A. Honduras has ended Canada’s last two World Cup qualifying campaigns, including an infamous 8-1 victory in 2014 qualifying.
Canada will be looking to qualify for the knockout stages of the Gold Cup for the first time since 2009, when Honduras eliminated them in the quarterfinals. Canada will also be in search of their first goal in a Gold Cup tournament since 2011.
Joining Honduras in Canada’s group are Costa Rica and French Guiana for the tournament which kicks off on July 7. Canada can count their blessing that they avoided the United States or Mexico, but it comes at the cost of being grouped with a pair of very good CONCACAF opponents. Canada kicks off the tournament on July 7 against French Guiana at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.
A big win in that opening game could be enough to see Canada advance. The top two finishers in each group are given automatic knockout stage spots, but two of the best third placed teams also advance. However, advancing in third place means a team is almost certain to meet one of the United States or Mexico in the quarterfinals.
Getting points off of one of Honduras or Costa Rica, necessary to finish in one of the top two spots in the group, is a tall order for Canada. This is especially true considering the fact that both games will be played in the July heat of Texas, a climate that will certainly favour Canada’s opponents.
Canada, who won the Gold Cup tournament in 2000, will be heavy underdogs in this summer’s competition. In fact, their current FIFA world ranking of 117 is the lowest of any team in the tournament. Canada’s fellow group mates Costa Rica and Honduras are ranked 19th and 65th in the world respectively. French Guiana, as well as Group B’s Martinique, are not ranked by FIFA as they are both part of France.
Toronto FC is expected to be well represented on the Canadian Gold Cup team, as seven TFC players were called into January training camp. Jonathan Osorio, Jay Chapman and Tosaint Ricketts are the most likely three to get the call come July. Jordan Hamilton has an outside chance of being added to the team as well.
Meanwhile, their Toronto FC teammates also learned who they will face in this year’s competition. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore see their United States team grouped with Armando Cooper’s Panama alongside Martinique and the winner of Haiti and Nicaragua in Group B. The final group of the tournament includes Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao and Jamaica.