Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament — Semifinal Mexico vs. Canada March 28, 2021 at 9:00 p.m. ET Estadio Jalisco - Guadalajara, Mexico Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
It’s do-or-die for Canada at the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The Canadian under-23s are set to face Mexico in the tournament semifinals on Sunday (9pm ET/OneSoccer) with the winner qualifying for this summer's Tokyo Olympics. Mauro Biello’s side advanced past the group stage on Thursday night with a 1-1 draw against the first-place Honduran team, and finished with a 1-2-0 record in Group B following a scoreless draw with Haiti and a 2-0 victory over El Salvador last week. Mexico defeated the U.S. 1-0 on Wednesday night in Group A to secure first place over the Americans. The hosts finished with a +7 goal difference after heavy victories over the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Canada is hoping to return to the Olympic tournament for the first time since 1984 in Los Angeles, while Honduras looks to qualify for the second consecutive time. Sunday's match pits the stingiest defence (Canada, one goal conceded in three games) against the best attack (Mexico, eight goals in three games) at this tournament. Canada sports 0-4-2 record vs. Mexico at the under-23 level in Concacaf Olympic qualifying since 1992.
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5 THINGS TO KNOW
- Lack of goals or chances: Centre back Derek Cornelius provided all three of Canada’s shots in their group stage closer against Honduras – thankfully he converted one of them – as the side failed to create much going forward. It was a similar tale against Haiti where Canada’s forward core failed to convert a handful of quality chances. Scoring against Mexico is difficult at any level and, if we’re being frank, Canada will likely need to find plenty of scoring opportunities to give itself a chance to qualify for Tokyo.
- Cornelius fitness: Speaking of Derek Cornelius, Canada’s star defender and captain went down and was substituted against Honduras after taking a knock. His fitness will be worth monitoring for Canadian supporters, especially considering the only other natural centre back in the squad, Callum Montgomery, was previously battling a knock, as well. Coach Mauro Biello told reporters on Saturday that Cornelius should be available to play vs. Mexico, but that it depends on how he does in the team's final training session.
- Canada’s spotless defensive record: While the attack could use work, Canada’s defensive record in Guadalajara has been fantastic. Canada has yet to allow a goal in open play at this tournament – a great omen against a team such as Mexico. Three of the back four — Marcus Godinho, Cornelius, and Zachary Brault-Guillard — have remained the same in all three starting lineups alongside goalkeeper James Pantemis.
- Mexican experience: A staggering amount of players (12) on Mexico’s Olympic qualifying side have experience with the senior men’s national team – well more than the handful Canada sports. Among senior-level talent, Sebastián Córdova has emerged as the one to watch. The 23-year-old Club América attacking midfielder scored four goals in the group stage, which included a hat trick over the Dominican Republic.
- Attacking changes: Will Biello mix up his attacking group for this crucial date against Mexico? Lucas Diaz looked sharp off the bench as an attacking midfielder in a couple games and some have called for his appearance sooner in matches. Strikers Charles Brym and Theo Bair haven’t exactly had great tournaments either, offering coach Biello the chance to make changes.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"We're well aware of who (Mexico) is - it's the giant in Concacaf. For us, we’re in a position where we wanted to be in terms of now getting to that one game that allows us to go through to the Olympics. It’s one game where anything can happen.We’re preparing to play the giant." -- Canadian coach Mauro Biello "We’re playing against host nation, the favourites, but that just gives us a bit more motivation to take down (the Mexicans) in their country. We’ll be going into that game knowing we’re the under-dogs, but we’re going to feed off that." -- Canadian goalkeeper James Pantemis