OLIVA, Spain – Given the massive task that lies ahead of him, new Canadian national team head coach Benito Floro was satisfied with his team’s performance in his first game in charge – a scoreless draw on Sunday against Mauritania.
Floro fielded a lineup that featured four teenagers and two players who received their first caps. Still with two years to go until 2018 World Cup qualifying gets underway for his team, there’s going to be a learning process for the coach and the players.
“At the moment, we are teaching how to play collectively,” the native Spaniard told a small media gathering after the game.
“It’s necessary to play a lot between us and to test with the friendly matches. But I understand it’s very difficult to get a result against a very good national team like Mauritania who press very excellently.”
In a game that was defined by physical and at times reckless tackling, the Mauritanians were effective at stifling any offensive creativity from the Canadians. More than once, Canadian players exchanged words with their opponents following tough challenges.
But the tackling and verbal sparring also served more to eat up the clock and interrupt any flow to Canada's game. They were similar time-wasting tactics that are employed by many CONCACAF countries and something that Canada's youngsters will need to grow accustomed to.
“They made it difficult to develop our attack. But it’s a good test for us,” Floro said. “For us, the best [part of our game] was our good intention to combine to play even if the opponent pressed very hard.”
With many of Canada's veteran options sitting out the game in favor of younger counterparts, a very different team is expected in the rematch on Tuesday.
Floro revealed that aside from the change in personnel, he will not be changing the team's approach to the game. On Sunday, Canada made a concerted effort to keep the ball on the ground and that’s clearly what the new coach is preaching as the rebuilding of the program begins in earnest.
Gavin Day covers the Canadian national team for MLSsoccer.com.