Restless night in Panama taught Canadians crucial lesson

Stephen Hart

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The actions of Panamanian fans outside the Canadian national team's hotel the night before the two teams' World Cup qualifier in Panama City earlier this month was less model citizen and more zero discipline, but it seems that Canada's coaching staff has learned a thing or two that they’ll use in the future.

The Canadian team was hardly allowed to sleep the night before the game they lost to Panama 2-0 on Sept. 11 as home fans serenaded them with cranked music, fireworks and a non-stop stream of horn-blaring cars.

It seemed to pay off as the next Canada looked every bit a team that had difficulty sleeping and came out slowly and devoid of energy. But speaking in a conference call with media on Thursday, head coach Stephen Hart (above) said they’ll change how they get ready for these types of games, especially with a match looming in Honduras in a few weeks that could determine which team gets out of the group.

“We looked at everything," Hart said. "Obviously we had made provisions for some sort of disturbance outside the hotel in Panama. We can’t control what goes on in the street, but we are and will be taking a number of precautions along those lines.

“I don’t want to talk too much for obvious reasons.”

Hart remained cagey when asked just what the team had in mind to avoid that sort of disruption, but he noted that Panama were exceptional in his experience coaching in the CONCACAF region.

“I’ve witnessed some street stuff before in Honduras in the past,” Hart said, “but nothing like it was in Panama.”

Before the Canadians worry about the sort of reception they’ll receive in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 16, they’ll first will have to deal with Cuba — a team they defeated 1-0 in June and one that is already eliminated from contention. Canada can take a lot of pressure off heading into Honduras if they can pick up a multiple-goal win over at BMO Field against the Caribbean side.

Hart knows the Cubans will be tough despite the fact that they haven’t scored a goal through four games, have conceded six times and haven't registered a single point.

“They’re playing for pride,” he said. “They’re a proud people and I think they will come to show that they are a team that probably could have done better than they have presently shown.”