The Canadian Press
Canada's hopes of appearing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup took a nosedive on Wednesday after a 2-1 away defeat to Mexico.
Substitute Omar Bravo and Rafael Marquez scored for Mexico in a soggy game played in Tuxtla Gutierrez, which is about 160 kilometres from the Guatemalan border. Ali Gerba replied late on for Canada.
Canada has just one point after three games in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group with Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica. The top two teams advance to the next stage of qualifying in 2009.
"This one was always going to be a tough one, probably the toughest game in CONCACAF, playing Mexico away from home," said Canadian head coach Dale Mitchell. "We did everything we could to get a result tonight, but we didn't get it.
"There are still three matches left to play, so we have to approach them with the right mentality."
Mexico is almost assured of a place after racking up a maximum nine points in their first three matches. Honduras entered Wednesday's action in second with three points, courtesy of a 2-1 win over Canada on September 6 in Montreal.
Canada next plays in Honduras on October 11, then returns home to play Mexico at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on October 15. They wrap up the qualifying round in Jamaica on November 19. Mitchell's men will need a string of good results to have any chance of moving on.
Mexico finally opened the scoring in the 58th minute after a sustained period of pressure around the Canadian goal. Ricardo Osorio sent a good cross into the penalty area from the right wing, and substitute Bravo met it with a header to beat Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld.
Mexico went up 2-0 in the 72nd minute when Andres Guardado's corner kick was headed home by Mexican captain Marquez.
Canada replied in the 77th minute when Iain Hume's long free kick from the right found Gerba, who beat Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez with a header, but the Canadians never really threatened again before the final whistle.
Mexico had one last chance, but Guardado's excellent run and shot in the 88th minute was stopped by Hirschfeld.
Mexico had the first good opportunity of an uneventful first half four minutes in when 19-year-old striker Carlos Vela had his header parried by a diving Hirschfeld.
Osorio tested Hirschfeld again in the 16th minute with a long, bounding shot, but the Canadian 'keeper was up to the task.
Vela had another good chance in the 24th minute when he chased down a nicely played through ball from Luis Perez, but Hirschfeld covered the ball up before the young striker could take advantage.
Julian de Guzman had a dangerous opportunity for Canada in the 31st minute, but his strike from outside the 18-yard box went wide.
Giovanni Dos Santos, Mexico's other 19-year-old attacker, had the half's best chance in the 40th minute when he volleyed a clever Vela back-heel flick, but his shot hit the near side of the Canadian goal.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco came in as a substitute in the 89th minute in what was likely his last appearance as a Mexican international. He managed to get booked in his brief time on the pitch. His appearance was his 100th at international level for Mexico.
Before the match, Blanco announced his retirement from international football.
Blanco, considered one of Mexico's greatest players, told the team of his decision late Tuesday, said Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compean.
The 35-year-old Blanco has been used as reserve by manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who has preferred Dos Santos and Vela as his starting strikers in recent matches against Honduras and Jamaica. In both games at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, the crowds of more than 100,000 chanted Blanco's name, asking Eriksson to send him in.
Blanco has scored 34 goals for Mexico since his debut in 1995 against Uruguay.
Blanco plays for the Chicago Fire, who pay him $2.7 million US - the second highest salary in Major League Soccer after Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham.
1.Lars Hirschfeld; 3.Mike Klukowski, 5.Richard Hastings, 7.Paul Stalteri, 15.Adrian Serioux; 6.Julian de Guzman, 11.Jim Brennan (10.Ali Gerba 59'), 12.Issey Nakajima-Farran (17.Iain Hume 67'), 13.Atiba Hutchinson, 14.Dwayne de Rosario; 16.Rob Friend (8.Olivier Occean 81')
Subs not used: 18.Pat Onstad, 2.Ante Jazic, 4.Dejan Jakovic
1.Oswaldo Sanchez; 2.Jose Magallon, 3.Fausto Pinto, 4.Rafael Marquez, 5.Ricardo Osorio, 6.Gerardo Torrado, 7.Luis Perez, 11.Carlos Vela (8.Carlos Ochoa 70'), 15.Fernando Arce (10.Cuauhtemoc Blanco 89'), 17.Giovanni Dos Santos (9.Omar Bravo 52'), 18.Andres Guardado
Subs not used: 13.Guillermo Ochoa, 14.Francisco Rodriguez, 16.Aaron Galindo