Canada down depleted Cuba to head into knockout rounds

By Paul Nicholson in Houston

July 4 – Canada secured their progression into the Gold Cup knockout rounds with a 4-2 win over Cuba on another 94 degree afternoon at the Shell Energy Stadium in Houston.

Canada will meet Mexico next but will have to step up a gear in front of goal if they are to progress further.

Cuba arrived at the match with just 17 players out of their 23-man squad, including three goal keepers, The other six players having disappeared from their training base into the US’s vast undocumented diaspora on Independence Day. The Cubans put up a creditable performance and are certainly not short on athleticism.

Canada were in search of a win, and goals, to secure qualification to the quarter finals. They lined up with four across the back protected by Moisie Bombito in the centre of midfield and attacked with a high line of Lucas Cavallini and Liam Miller, with Junior Hoilettt and Jonathan Osorio joining from midfield.

That combination almost gave Canada the lead on 6 minutes. A ball fed into Hoilett overlapping on the left was driven along the goalline to incoming Osorio whose finish hit the underside of the cross bar and bounced down on the line, but not in.

On 13’ the increasingly impressive Ali Ahmed fired wide form outside the box. Ahmed has been a real find for Canada so far this tournament.

In the 20th minute Canada had their breakthrough. A handball by Eduardo Hernandez in the box saw Hoillet calmly send Cuba goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez the wrong way.

Two minutes later Canada should have been two up, but Zac McGraw headed a free kick over the bar. Canada, as in their previous two games, were again wasting chances to put the match to bed.

On 27 minutes Canada had the crucial second goal needed to give them the goal difference to qualify. A Canadian counterattack saw Cavallini square the ball across the box to an incoming Osorio who this time made no mistake.

In New York Guadeloupe went one up against Guatemala and into the group lead.

In added time Cuba pulled a goal back against the run of play. Canadian keeper Dayne St Clair brought down incoming Luis Paradela. Paradela scored from the spot and almost levelled a minute later but his shot hit the side netting.

Canada had taken their foot off the gas. In New York Guatemala had equalised. Canada were still holding second qualification place and back in with a chance of top spot, but not with the kind of defending that ended the first half.

Two minutes into the second half Canada had restored their two-goal advantage. A horrible spill on the ground by Sanchez saw a busy Jayden Miller, on for Bombito, steal the ball and calmly round the sprawled Sanchez to side foot in.

Canada kept the pressure on and on 55’ a rebound off Miller hit the post and was turned out. Miller eventually had their fourth goal.

Cuba inexplicably subbed Sanchez for Nelson Johnston on a Canada corner. Johnston missed his punch clearance from the corner and Miller headed through him to at reward his afternoon of huffing and puffing.

Cuba had a late push, backed by an El Salvadorian support that were readying for the next game. St. Clair tipped over the bar for a corner. VAR called the referee back for a possible penalty that was given, much to the delight of the El Salvadorian fans. Maykel Reyes scored on 88’ and the El Salvadorian fans continued their party.

There was still time for Osorio to strike the ball nicely round Johnston but he was ruled offside. Canada peppered the Cuban goal in the final 8 minutes of added time but in the end were happy to comfortably take the points.

With Guatemala coming back from behind to beat Guadeloupe 3-2, Canada now head to Arlington to face Mexico in the quarter final.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1716198057labto1716198057ofdlr1716198057owedi1716198057sni@n1716198057osloh1716198057cin.l1716198057uap1716198057

Trinidad and Tobago1024103
St Kitts and Nevis0030130
Costa Rica111764
El Salvador011342

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