Thanks to a 3-0 win by Costa Rica over Guadeloupe on Wednesday night, Canada have advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
Now comes the hard part.
Canada will face off with the Ticos on Friday (8 pm ET, concacaf.com), needing nothing less than a win to ensure top spot in their group and a quarterfinal date against the runners-up from Group D.
A tie or a loss means the young Canucks will likely face powerhouse Mexico in the next round, with a spot in this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup on the line. Needless to say, Canada would prefer to beat Costa Rica and get the more favorable one-off match in the next round. It won’t be easy, though.
Due to Costa Rica’s superior goal differential, Canada will need to open up the play against the Ticos. The Central American side looked far more comfortable against Guadeloupe than the Canadians did, and a wide-open match could put pressure on a Canuck back line that has looked uneasy when dealing with quick counterattacks.
Canada head coach Valerio Gazzola noted that the Ticos play a style more reliant on possession than athleticism, which could prove advantageous as Guadeloupe’s direct play caused the Canadians problems in the opener.
“They’re a good side,” Gazzola said of Costa Rica, “they’re very organized, they like to play short passes. They like to play balls that are north to south, but with five- to 10-yard passes. They’re not necessarily the team that’s going to be direct and play deep balls or long balls.”
Canada will again look to Vancouver Whitecaps FC rookie Russell Teibert and team captain Ethan Gage to lead the attack from the midfield. Teibert set up both Canadian goals in the first match, while Gage was the calming influence in the middle of the park that allowed the Canadians to rally from an unsettling first half.
As he did in the first game, big striker Lucas Cavallini of Uruguay’s Club Nacional will be tasked with keeping the opposing defenders honest through his physical play. Jonathan Osorio, Cavallini’s club teammate, provided a second-half spark for the Canucks when inserted into the match against Guadeloupe, and more of that will be needed if the Canadians hope to take control of the game, and ultimately, control of the group.