Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament — Match #7 Haiti vs. Canada March 22, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. ET Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Mexico Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
Canada is riding high at the Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Mexico at the moment. But coach Mauro Biello and his side need to keep the momentum going when they return to Group B action on Monday evening in a critical game vs. Haiti. The Canadians are coming off an impressive 2-0 win over El Salvador in their tournament opener, with Tajon Buchanan grabbing the headlines via his two-goal effort. Canada and Honduras are tied for first place in Group B with three points, but the Central Americans top the group based on goal difference (+3 vs. +2). Canada can clinch a top-two finish in Group B and a spot in the tournament semifinals with a win over Haiti, provided Honduras also defeats El Salvador on Monday. Finishing first could lead to a more straight-forward path towards Olympic qualification, so Canada can ill afford to drop points against Haiti, who is coming off a 3-0 loss to Honduras. Only the two semifinal winners qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
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5 THINGS TO KNOW
- Beware of Buchanan: Canada’s Tajon Buchanan put in a man-of-the-match effort vs. El Salvador by bagging a pair of first-half goals. It was an amazing performance for Buchanan, a 22-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., who came into this game with no international experience for Canada under his belt at any age level. Buchanan’s brace was the 12th by a Canadian under-23 player in Olympic qualifying, and the first since Tosaint Ricketts in 2008. "That first game of a tournament is always the most important game. We wanted to come out and show what we can do, and bring the fight and energy. Everyone played their part," Buchanan told reporters on Sunday.
- Centre-back & yellow card issues for Canada: One of only two natural centre-backs on Canada’s 20 man roster, Callum Montgomery was subbed out due to injury at halftime against El Salvador. Biello told reporters on Sunday he’ll have to see how Montgomery does in the team’s final training session to determine whether he’ll play vs. Haiti. If not, look for midfielder David Norman Jr. to take his spot in the starting 11. Three Canadian players picked up yellow cards vs. El Salvador, including centre-back Derek Cornelius. If any of those players earn another caution on Monday, they would be suspended for Canada’s group-stage finale vs. Honduras. Biello hinted that Canada’s yellow card situation might affect his team selection against Haiti.
- What to expect from Haiti: In its tournament opener, Haiti only started with 10 men and had an outfield player in goal because members of the team's late arrival in Mexico, which impacted their pre-game COVID-19 testing. They were eventually able to bring in reinforcements into the match, including a goalkeeper, once the tests came back negative. After conceding three times in the opening 38 minutes, the Haitians buckled down and looked a lot stronger in the second half against Honduras. "We saw (them) have some roster difficulties in their first game, and really didn’t get a good picture of what that team really looks like. … We’re expecting a team now that’s going to fight – their tournament is on the line for them, so we need to match that type of intensity," Biello said.
- CPL representation: There are three CPL players on Canada’s 20-man roster: midfielder David Norman Jr. (Cavalry FC), and fullbacks Mo Farsi (Cavalry FC) and Diyaeddine Abzi (York United FC). Both Norman Jr. and Farsi came on as second-half substitutes in the win over El Salvador, as they became the first CPLers to play in a competitive game for Canada at any level. Biello said he was impressed with how Norman Jr. deputized for Montgomery at the centre-back position in the second half vs. El Salvador: "I thought David did very well. He came in, was very mature to step in there. It’s not easy to step in a game like that… He gives us that calmness at the back."
- How the tournament works: Canada returns to Group B action when it faces Honduras on March 25. Group A consists of Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Canada must finish in the top two in Group B in order to advance to the semifinals on March 28, with only the two tournament finalists qualifying for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Finishing first in Group B is important, as it likely means avoiding host nation Mexico in the semifinals. The last time Canada participated at the Summer Games was in 1984 in Los Angeles when it reached the quarter-finals
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
"When you look at some transition moments (vs. El Salvador), I felt we could’ve been a bit better, a little bit more direct, taking that extra touch when we could’ve exploited some gaps in transition. That’s something we want to improve on." - Canadian coach Mauro Biello "Haiti is a very physical and athletic team. They have guys in the front line with a lot of pace. This game is going to be a big game for them – it’s do or die, basically. We have to play our game, and bring the fight and energy we did (vs. El Salvador) and try to improve on that." - Canadian forward Tajon Buchanan