In a game against the reigning Asian champions, a team as sure a bet as any to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Canada's narrow 2-1 loss to Japan on Friday provided plenty of reasons for optimism.
There is still cause for concern, however, especially looking at the way Canada conceded those two goals. Japan created plenty of chances, but they struggled in front of net until provided a pair of gifts from the Canucks.
"We are frustrated with the way we conceded the two goals,” said interim head coach Tony Fonseca. "Working to stop conceding goals from errors is something we have been focusing on – so the team is disappointed in that sense.”
Japan scored nine minutes in when netminder Milan Borjan sprinted off his line to clear a through ball. After sliding to get to it, Borjan wasn’t able to clear and Shinji Okazaki chipped the 'keeper, who was trying to get back into position. Borjan was far from alone in taking the blame, though, as the Canadian defenders were caught playing a very high line and were exposed by a pinpoint through ball.
On the second goal, substitute Mike Havenaar – whose finishing had looked suspect – was given all kinds of time and space to get his foot to a cross from the left side, punishing Canada for their lackadaisical defending even after scuffing his finish.
"Defensively we could have been better and that is something we will have to work on over the next few days,” said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, who was one of Canada's shining lights in the game. “That being said I thought we were good on the ball and created some good chances. We just have to learn from our mistakes and improve in our defending."
As Hutchinson noted, Canada held some good possession of the ball and after looking decidedly unthreatening for the first half, they settled in, got their goal and had some opportunities near the end.
“There were some young players that showed they might be part of a future generation for Canada,” said Fonseca. "We are encouraged by that. We managed to cause them some problems as well, particularly in the second half."
And fortunately for Canada, they will get another immediate opportunity to give their defensive work another go when they face Belarus in Doha on Monday.