Canada's World Cup hopes at an end


The Canadian Press

Canada's road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup ended with a 3-1 defeat in Honduras on Saturday night, extending a men's soccer drought that dates back to 1986.

The defeat was the third straight for Dale Mitchell's team, which has managed just one draw in four outings in a tough group in this round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The Canadian men have two games remaining, including a date Wednesday in Edmonton with Mexico, but they are now meaningless contests.

Defender Andrew Hainault appeared to throw Canada (0-3-1) a lifeline in the 54th minute after Rob Friend's header from an Iain Hume free kick hit the crossbar, then bounced off the onrushing Hainault's thigh into the goal. A draw would have kept Canada's razor-thin chances of qualification alive - at least temporarily.

But Carlo Costly's spectacular long-range rocket into the top right corner beat Lars Hirschfeld to make it 2-1 in the 65th minute and prolong the World Cup misery for the Canadian men. Hendry Thomas rubbed salt in the wound with a close-range header in injury time.

"I believe our team performed well after the Honduras goal," said Mitchell. "We had a few situations where we could have scored. In the second half, we got the goal, but then the game changed when the goal was scored by Costly."

Walter Martinez opened the scoring for Honduras (3-1-0) in the ninth minute.

Elsewhere in CONCACAF Group Two, Jamaica (1-2-1) used a 14th-minute goal by Ricardo Fuller to upset visiting Mexico (3-1-0) 1-0 to remain alive and delay the Mexicans' progress to the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Honduras and Mexico are tied atop Group Two with nine points, five ahead of Jamaica and eight ahead of Canada. With only six points left on the table, the Canadians can finish with no more than seven points.

In other action Saturday, the USA (6-1 over Cuba) and Costa Rica (4-1 over Suriname) won to book their tickets to the final six in CONCACAF. Three of those countries will make the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while a fourth will meet a South American side in a playoff to see who joins the finals.

Canada is ranked fifth in CONCACAF and 84th in the world, compared to 50th for Honduras (third in CONCACAF). But it has not made it to the World Cup finals since 1986 when it failed to win a game or score a goal.

There was an early scare for Canada at the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula when Hirschfeld let a ball dribble right through him, but the play was called offside. Martinez scored for real just minutes later. A through ball from Toronto FC star Amado Guevara, after a lengthy period of Honduran possession, split the Canadian defence and reached Wilson Palacios, whose close-range cross was poked home by Martinez.

The goal aroused the Canadians, who had a good spell but failed to test the Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares. But as the half wore on, the Central Americans patiently passed the ball around and dominated possession, with Guevara pulling the strings from midfield.

The Canadians brought on Hume and Friend to bolster the attack and the two played a key role in setting up the Canadian goal. Palacios had a chance to make it 3-1 in the 81st minute, but shot wide after taking a through ball that sliced open the Canadian defence again.

Canada continued to threaten on set-pieces in the second half and Friend got his head to a late corner, but the ball never made it through a tangle of bodies.

The Canadians were missing key players in suspended attacking midfielder Dwayne de Rosario, defender Adrian Serioux, and injured midfielder Julian de Guzman. They also arrived in Honduras on the heels of controversy with Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan, not selected by Mitchell, saying he would no longer play for the national team under the current coach.

As in other recent qualifying attempts, an inability to collect points at home hurt the Canadians, who have managed just point out of six on home soil this time around. Canada opened this qualifying round with a 1-1 draw with Jamaica in Toronto before losing 2-1 to Honduras in Montreal and 2-1 in Mexico.


CANADA

1.Lars Hirschfeld; 3.Mike Klukowski, 4.Andrew Hainault, 5.Kevin McKenna, 7.Paul Stalteri; 8.Patrice Bernier (17. Iain Hume 45'), 12.Marcel de Jong (11.Richard Hastings 81'), 13.Atiba Hutchinson, 15.Kevin Harmse; 9.Tomasz Radzinski, 10.Ali Gerba (16. Rob Friend 45')

Subs not used:
1.Josh Wagenaar, 2.Dejan Jakovic, 6.Nik Ledgerwood, 14.Chris Pozniak


HONDURAS

18.Noel Valladares; 2.Osman Chavez, 3.Maynor Figueroa, 4.Hendry Thomas, 5.Victor Bernardez; 6.Sergio Mendoza, 7.Amado Guevara, 8.Wilson Palacios, 10.Ramon Nunez (17.Danilo Turcios 46'); 13.Carlos Costly, 15.Walter Martinez (16.Carlos Mejia 75')


Subs not used:
1.John Hoore, 9.Reynaldo Tilguath, 11.Milton Nunez, 12.Emilio Izaguirre, 14.Miguel Castillo