PUEBLA, Mexico – After their opening-game loss to Cuba on Monday, Canada Under-20 national team head coach Nick Dasovic immediately told his players there was no reason to hang their heads.
Four days later, all Canada need to advance to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship quarterfinals is a tie against a Nicaragua team that lost 3-0 to the Cubans in their opening game Wednesday.
“There were some really good moments and a few iffy moments,” Dasovic admitted after the team trained on Thursday afternoon. “But in general, for the first game after three months together, I was happy with a lot of stuff that happened there.”
On Thursday, Dasovic ran the team though a training session that was heavy on tactics and attacking or defending on different scenarios.
He also admitted some changes are likely for Friday’s game. He said it wasn’t due to individual mistakes or performances but rather a chance to change things up and give his team a new look.
Nicaragua come into the game needing to beat Canada if they want to usurp the second spot in Group B ahead of the Canadians. Despite being soundly beaten in their first game against Cuba, they've proved themselves against quality opposition by defeating Central American qualifying hosts Honduras last summer to claim a spot in the tournament.
“They like to play a very quick style of football,” Dasovic said. “They like to get it down and play it long and get the quick guys in behind, so we have to be ready for anything over the top.”
Rather than focusing on the outcome of Friday’s game, Dasovic admitted he doesn’t mind if Canada wins or draws so long as the performance is an improvement over Monday.
The priority is the team’s progression to the knockout round and he’ll be perfectly happy if a solid outing by his group happens to end up in a draw.
“If it gets us to the quarterfinals and we can pick up good moments and take ourselves into that quarterfinal that’s the important thing. You need to feel good about yourself to feel positive and a result will get you that way whatever it is as long as it’s a positive one for us.”