TORONTO – After coming up with a fantastic result Friday night, one Canada's players called the most important of their careers, the stakes will be raised even higher on Tuesday when Panama get their chance for revenge (8 pm ET, Sportnet) – this time on their home turf.
And while Canada are certainly ecstatic with Friday’s win, they're all saying the right things, well aware they can’t rest on their laurels.
“Tuesday will be fun,” Will Johnson (above) said. “We’ve got to get a result and put ourselves in a position. You’ve got a lot of guys in the locker room who believe in this group and hopefully some more people in the country are starting to believe in us as well. It will be fun – looking forward to it but you can’t understate the importance of Tuesday’s game.”
Panama now sit in second place and with Honduras winners in Cuba in the other game in the group, Los Canaleros will have to attack or run the risk of sitting out of contention after everything went so well in June. The Canadians know what awaits them in their next challenge.
Even a draw for Canada on Tuesday will see them just needing a win next month against Cuba in October to find themselves in the final round with one game to play. And with that final game against Honduras on the road, they certainly don’t want to put themselves in a tight spot in the frightening conditions that await them in San Pedro Sula.
“I think we can only gain confidence from this because, let’s not fool ourselves – Panama is a very good team,” said Canadian coach Stephen Hart. “[They’re] extremely organized. Technically, they play the ball well. They have one or two or maybe three individuals that can change a game at any moment.”
It’s already been noted that Canada haven't made the final round of qualifying since they finished bottom in the round for the 1998 World Cup. Ever since then, they’ve seemed overmatched by the task, but there is certainly belief that the final round may be within reach.