It’s do-or-die time for Canada’s Under-20 squad.
Despite some uninspired play over the first two matches of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Guatemala, the young Canucks find themselves in the quarterfinal stage of the tournament, one win away from gaining entry into this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.
All they have to do is defeat Mexico on Tuesday night (10 pm ET, concacaf.com).
Canada got to this point by virtue of a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Guadeloupe in the tournament opener, followed by a humbling 3-0 loss to Costa Rica last Friday night that decided the Group C winner.
As runners-up of the group, the Canadians must now face off with an impressive Mexican side that has looked cohesive and every bit as dangerous as the score lines of their opening two matches – a 3-0 win over Cuba and a 5-0 rout of Trinidad and Tobago – suggest.
For Canada to stand a chance, they’ll need to get back to the strong midfield play and fundamentally strong soccer that they displayed in the second half of their match against Guadeloupe.
To accomplish that, they’ll need a healthy Russell Teibert in the lineup. The 18-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps FC winger was an offensive dynamo for the Canadians in the second half of the Guadeloupe match – his industriousness creating the two goals needed to put Canada on top.
Teibert was forced to miss the second match against Costa Rica due to an illness, and his absence was painfully obvious as the Canadians struggled to put pressure on a Ticos side that dominated the wings all game long.
Canada will also need more steady play from captain Ethan Gage, who had looked frustrated at times when he couldn’t assert his game on the Costa Rican midfield. Also, Jonathan Osorio and Lucas Cavallini, both key cogs in the Canadian attack, will have to find a rhythm that they couldn’t seem to locate against the Ticos.
One area where the Canucks shouldn’t struggle is in the net, as goalkeeper Julien Latendresse-Levesque has been solid all tournament long. Aside from a single gaffe in the second match, the Energie Cottbus prospect has been a commanding presence behind the Canadian back line, and will need to continue that excellent work for his side to be competitive with an El Tri team that will no doubt pour on the pressure from the outset.