Getting off to slow starts has been the theme for Canada in recent World Cup qualifying campaigns. The semifinal round of qualifying has been the end of the line for the Canucks in the last three campaigns. Each time, Canada only registered a single point in their first two games.
Midfielder Atiba Hutchinson is, quite obviously, anxious to exorcise those demons as the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup approaches.
“Having one point after playing two games at home it kind of put us behind the eight ball right away,” Hutchinson told Canadian media in a conference call from the team’s training camp in Florida. “So it’s important to us to get off to a good start.”
Hutchinson was in the lineup for the Canucks’ all-too-brief run in 2010 World Cup qualifying. Despite having a surfeit of talent at their disposal – in addition to Hutchinson (above left), who’s a regular at PSV, there’s also Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman, Rob Friend and Kevin McKenna – Canada simply haven’t been able to put together a consistent side when the games counted.
It was particularly tough to take last time through, as they were coming off a strong showing in the 2007 Gold Cup.
“The time that I’ve been there it’s gotten off to a really bad start, playing at home and pretty much have nothing to show for it,” said Hutchinson. “I think in everyone’s mind we have to get off to a good start. We believe in ourselves and our qualities and we have a team able to perform and getting through this round and getting to the final round.”
Unlike four years ago, when Canada opened with back-to-back home games, this time around they open with a road game in Cuba on June 8, then come back for a home encounter with group favorites Honduras on June 12.
It’s a favorable draw for Canada as Cuba are the lowest-ranked team in the group, which is rounded out by a strong Panamanian side. There is perhaps no better chance of getting off to a good start than against the weakest team in the group.
“We know it’s a tough game and I know we’ll be prepared for it and to go out and get three points from that game,” Hutchinson offered.
And he knows from experience the consequences if they don’t.