Czech Republic vs. Canada
Friday, November 15, 2013, 11 am ET
Andruv Stadion, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Watch on Sportsnet One
With neither team headed to next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, both Canada and the Czech Republic will be focusing on the future in Friday’s friendly match.
But the Canadians will also be keeping an eye on the present, as they hope to stop what’s thus far been a calamitous slide down the FIFA rankings in 2013 to an all-time low of No. 111.
With Canada still searching for their first win this year, head coach Benito Floro has picked a 22-man roster containing a mix of youth and experience – but also one that includes four players currently without a club and many others whose playing time for their clubs is sporadic at best.
That’s the player-pool reality he’ll have to deal with as he works to identify and establish his core of players for the years ahead.
The Czechs, meanwhile, are also trying out some relative newcomers, with a majority of their roster aged 25 or younger. The team, ranked No. 27 in the world, was knocked out of World Cup qualifying just last month and will surely be looking to put on a good show in front of their home fans against the reeling Canadians.
For Canada, there’s always the future to dream about. But getting there means first withstanding the present.
Coincidentally, the last meeting between the two teams was precisely 10 years prior to this game. On Nov. 15, 2003, the Czechs easily dispatched Canada by a score of 5-1, with Tomasz Radzinski scoring the lone goal for the Canadians.
Eight straight games without a goal. Twelve straight games without a win. To sum up the Canada team outlook in one word: “bleak.”
Since a 3-0 win over Cuba in World Cup qualifying back on Oct. 12, 2012, Canada have managed just three draws and nine losses (including an 8-1 humiliation in Honduras last October, and a 1-0 loss to No. 152-ranked Mauritania in September) and scored just two goals.
Young striker Caleb Clarke, who was added to the roster this week, provides a fresh face and some hope of a scoring breakthrough. Fellow youngsters Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC) are also in the mix, and have established themselves as regular call-ups so far this year.
Joining them will be stalwart Dwayne De Rosario, who is with the Canadian team despite being without a club, after his option was declined by D.C. United last month.
CZECH REPUBLIC OUTLOOK
The Czechs' last game was the most difficult one for any national team – the day of elimination from World Cup qualifying. A 1-0 win on the road in Bulgaria on Oct. 15, the final day of group-stage play in UEFA, wasn’t enough to keep them alive, as they finished third in Group B behind Italy and Denmark.
It’s been a generally middling year in 2013 – four wins, two draws and three losses – but the most devastating result of all was a 2-1 home loss to Armenia on Sept. 6, an outcome that ultimately doomed their hopes of reaching Brazil 2014.
While veterans such as Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky will be part of Friday’s roster, nearly half of the squad wasn’t a part of that game against Armenia. The Czechs, like the Canadians, will be looking to test out the depth of their player pool in this game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Caleb Clarke: The 20-year-old (at right) earned his first call up to the senior national team earlier this week as a late roster addition. The Richmond, B.C., native is a graduate of the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program and a member of the Whitecaps senior team, though he’s currently on loan with FC Augsburg II in Germany.
For Augsburg, he’s scored four goals in 13 appearances this season for the Bundesliga club's fourth-division reserve side, with his latest coming this past Friday. With Canada in desperate need of goalscoring help, Clarke could very well be given the chance to try and impress Floro – and the Canadian public.
Czech Republic – Tomas Rosicky: The Arsenal midfielder could reach a couple of milestones against Canada. If he plays Friday, he’ll overtake Milan Baros in caps for the Czechs, and move to third on the all-time list with 94. Also, his 21 goals for his country have him sitting just one behind Pavel Kuka for fourth on the Czech Republic’s all-time goalscorers list.
Getting the chance to reach either mark in front of an appreciative home crowd would be a stellar moment for a player who’s served his country for nearly a decade and a half.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga, Norway), Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK, Sweden)
DEFENDERS (8): Nik Ledgerwood (Hammarby, Sweden), Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC), Andre Hainault (VfR Aalen, Germany), Adam Straith (Wehen Weisbaden, Germany), Nana Attakora (San Jose Earthquakes), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Marcel de Jong (Augsburg, Germany), Karl Ouimette (Montreal Impact)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Pedro Pacheco (Santa Clara, Portugal), Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Stefan Cebara (unattached), Issey Nakajima-Farran (unattached), Terry Dunfield (unattached)
STRIKERS (5): Tosaint Ricketts (Bucaspor, Turkey), Simeon Jackson (Eintracht Braunschweig, Germany), Kyle Porter (D.C. United), Caleb Clarke (FC Augsburg II, Germany), Dwayne De Rosario (unattached)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Petr Cech (Chelsea, England), Tomás Vaclík (Sparta Prague, Czech Republic)
DEFENDERS (6): Tomás Sivok (Besiktas, Turkey), Theodor Gebre Selassie (Werder Bremen, Germany), Marek Suchý (Spartak Moscow, Russia), Frantisek Rajtoral (Viktoria Plzen, Czech Republic), Ondrej Mazuch (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine), Ondrej Celustka (Sunderland, England)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Tomás Rosický (Arsenal, England), Tomás Hübschman (Shaktar Donetsk, Ukraine), Petr Jirácek (Hamburg, Germany), Vladimír Darida (Freiburg, Germany), Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague, Czech Republic), Ondrej Vanek (Baumit Jablonec, Czech Republic), Ladislav Krejcí (Sparta Prague, Czech Republic)
STRIKERS (3): Matej Vydra (West Bromwich Albion, England), Václav Kadlec (Frankfurt, Germany), Libor Kozák (Aston Villa, England)