Occean hopes to solve Canada's goalscoring woes
TORONTO – Goalscoring – or more accurately, the lack thereof – has been the Canadian national team's greatest struggle in the recent past.
But as the team prepares to kick off the next phase of its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, that may well change.
The best reason for optimism in the attacking third comes in the form of Olivier Occean. The 30-year-old led the way for Greuther Fürth this past season as his 18 goals – tied for most in the league – helped Fürth win the 2.Bundesliga in Germany, returning his club to the top flight for the first time in 49 years.
The challenge now is to get Occean to translate that goalscoring form at the club level to the international stage.
“I think Stephen [Hart, Canada's head coach] has been watching some of my tapes so he knows by now how I play,” Occean said after the Canadian team trained on Friday. “We’ve been training on my movements and everything so we have an idea how I play and hopefully we can have a similar type of game that I have in Germany, so we’ll see.”
Occean's time in Germany has been kind to the Quebec native. He made the move in 2010 when he joined Kickers Offenbach in the 3.Liga. His 16 goals in 30 games there caught Fürth's attention, and he's continued to enjoy success with his current club.
“In Germany, they have a very different type of football to play,” he explained. “They play more the football to feet. That suits me. It’s a totally different type.”
At 30 years old, Occean has been in and out of the Canadian team in his career. Prior to scoring three times last year for Canada against St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis to get started in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, he hadn’t scored a goal for the Canucks since 2007 when he tallied in a 1-1 friendly draw against Iceland.
After a career that’s brought him to Norway and three different levels of professional soccer in Germany, Occean wants to make himself a mainstay in the Canadian attack.
“This is a challenge, but I’m up for it,” said Occean. “It’s always a joy to be on the Canadian national team and I’m looking forward to it.”
PREVIEW: USA vs Canada