SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – When playing in Central America, it's best for visiting teams to prepare for the unexpected, the unimaginable and the downright bizarre.
While the bulk of the Canadian national team has experiences of the southern regions of CONCACAF at either the youth or senior levels, new winger Junior Hoilett is coming in blind, having never played in any previous Canadian camp.
Despite that, Hoilett says he’s ready for what’s to come on Tuesday night in San Salvador.
“[Teammates] told me to expect the worst ... that will play a part,” Hoilett said with a wide grin. “Hostile environments, fans that are crazy and stuff like that. But everything’s an experience and I’m looking forward to it.”
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It’s usually an adventure when Canada heads to this part of the world. For a World Cup qualifier in Panama in 2012, Canada’s team bus was deliberately obstructed by vehicles passing in front of them and then braking en route to training prior to the game.
Later that night, of course, came the notorious incident in which some of the host nation's fans kept Canadian players awake by setting off fireworks and playing loud music outside their hotel in an attempt to throw off the Canadians’ sleep prior to a 2-0 Panamanian victory.
In El Salvador, it’s more likely that the weather and the rather chewed-up pitch at the Estadio Cuscatlan – which is not expected to sell out for Tuesday's match – will affect Canada the most. But with a forecast of 76° F (24° C), albeit with high humidity, for the nighttime kickoff, it’s not expected to be as hostile as recent destinations like Honduras.
One can never be certain when it’s a World Cup qualifier, however.
“It makes it a little bit easier, but every game down here is difficult,” said Will Johnson. “We know that from experience. I think the better feeling with our group is that we’ve got a lot of young guys that are coming down for the first time and feel confident to be able to perform in an environment like this and really enjoy the experience vs. being really intimidated by it.
“So I think that’s where we are. We’re confident. We know this is a huge opportunity and we know that this will hopefully be an easier challenge than going into Honduras or going into Mexico City.”
Hoilett is hoping to get a similar sort of organized performance as the one that got Canada three points over Honduras on Friday night. He impressed with good pace and touch on the ball, and provided the cross that led to Cyle Larin’s winning goal.
“The weather’s going to play a part in the game as well, but I expect us to go out to perform like we did the other night,” said Hoilett, who made his debut for Canada in October in a 1-1 draw with Ghana. “By staying compact and sticking to Benito’s game plan, I think we’ll get a result.”