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Canada goalless vs. Guatemala, settling for 2nd straight draw in Gold Cup group play

Canada knew what couldn’t happen but still didn’t manage to do what it needed to do versus Guatemala on Saturday night in CONCACAF Gold Cup play.

Canada battled to a 0-0 draw against Guatemala in sweltering heat. That result means the national men’s soccer team must now defeat Cuba on Tuesday in Houston if it hopes to advance past the tournament’s Group D stage.

“The one thing we couldn’t do is lose tonight,” said head coach John Herdman. “We gave it everything to try and win. The moments were there to win the match for both teams.”

Guadeloupe and Guatemala lead Group D with four points from a win and a draw.

Canada has two points from the two draws while Cuba has no points.

Guadeloupe and Guatemala play in Tuesday’s other match.

Canada could still finish first in the group with a win over Cuba and the right goal-differential should Guadeloupe and Guatemala tie. Canada can also finish second.

“We know what is our destiny,” said Herdman. “We’ve got to win this third match, push the goal difference, and take our country to the quarterfinals.”

The match was played before a vocal, pro-Guatemala crowd in 34 Celsius heat and 65 per cent humidity at Shell Energy Stadium.

“That was a tough match in a tough environment,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio, shouting to be heard over the loud crowd in a television interview after the match. “We were basically playing away.

“I thought the team fought really well. We felt like we needed to come out of this with three points. But nonetheless, we’ll take the draw and [play] Cuba with nothing more on our minds than get the win and [score] a lot of goals.”

After being badly outplayed at times Canada pressed in the game’s late stages.

Forward Jacob Shaffelburg had an opportunity in the 75th minute but couldn’t get a clean shot away allowing goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen to make the save. Zac McGraw had a chance on the same sequence but put the ball over the net.

A few minutes later centre back Steven Vitoria blasted a shot that Hagen stopped.

Canada, ranked 47th in the world, was booed by a hometown crowd in Toronto when they opened Group D play with a 2-2 draw versus Guadeloupe on Tuesday. Guatemala defeated Cuba 1-0 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in its first game of the tournament.

Guadeloupe defeated Cuba 4-1 earlier Saturday.

Guatemala, ranked 116th, came close in the opening minutes of the second half. A sliding Carlos Mejia had an open net but the midfielder just missed connecting with the ball.

Canada’s best scoring chance of the opening half came in the 29th minute. Lucas Cavallini headed a ball to forward Junior Hoilett who twisted and fired a shot that sailed over the net.

A Canadian giveaway allowed Guatemala to threaten in the 20th minute. Forward Nathaniel Mendez had a clear shot from the top of the box but goalkeeper Milan Borjan made the save.

Canada got lucky in the 33rd minute. Aaron Herrera sent a corner kick into the box and a defensive lapse left defender Jose Ardon all alone, but he failed to make contact with the ball.

A few minutes later Herrera just missed the top corner of the net on a free kick.

The 16-country tournament runs through July 16 across 15 stadiums in 14 cities.

Canada is missing some of its biggest names with Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan, Alistair Johnston, Atiba Hutchinson and Ismael Kone not playing.

The lack of finish showed Saturday.

“It’s that lack of quality we are missing,” said Herdman. “Too many times we got into that area and didn’t deliver the quality we are used to.

“We’ve got to work on that. Cuba is up next. It’s a big opportunity for us.”

Steve Carr

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