TORONTO — Canadian national team manager Stephen Hart isn’t pulling any punches when talking about what it’s going to take to advance to the next round of CONCACAF 2014 World Cup qualifying.
In a Thursday press conference at BMO Field revealing the events surrounding the Canadian Soccer Association’s centennial celebrations, Hart was asked how many points Canada will need from six upcoming matches against Cuba, Honduras and Panama to move on.
“Eighteen,” he answered with a laugh before elaborating.
“The last qualifying campaign, we said 10 points should qualify us and Jamaica got 10 points and got knocked out. Realistically, you have to get 12 points and be safe, but we’re going for 18.”
Declaring their intention to go unbeaten is one thing — doing it is another matter entirely. Canada will be in for a tough challenge starting in Cuba on June 8. The game is scheduled for the middle of the afternoon with the hosts hoping their Canadian visitors will wilt under an oppressive Caribbean sun.
To prepare for the heat in Cuba, Canada’s squad will assemble for a camp in Florida that is expected to feature a closed-door friendly that is yet to be finalized. European-based players will report first beginning on May 21, while MLS players won’t report until after league games on the May 26.
From Florida, the team will head to Toronto for the CSA’s centennial game against the United States on June 3 before flying to Havana.
While Canada's second opponents on the schedule are the skilled Hondurans, who appeared in the 2010 World Cup, Hart says that Panama — a team Canada play twice in September — is the team to pay close attention to.
“All of them bring something different, especially at home,” Hart noted about Canada's group foes. “Panama is the team in the group that is most consistent. They’ve played consistently every game I’ve seen them play. They have a group of players that has played together for a long time.”