Winger Tajon Buchanan, born in 1999, arrived 15 years after the Canadian men’s last qualification for the Olympic football tournament.
Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro have been since then come and gone.
Buchanan and his young Canadian teammates want to end this drought with a victory at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualification Championship in Guadalajara. And although these failed qualification attempts have nothing to do with it, the past has not been forgotten.
« It’s all about history, » said Canada coach Mauro Biello at a virtual press conference on Sunday. « It’s all about the legacy we leave behind. And that has been shown to this group what they can achieve here.
» The Olympics are a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s more than an event, it’s a transformative experience. And I told the group that we as a group, we as a country, have a chance. «
The Canadians of 1984 made it to the quarter-finals of the LA Games and lost to Brazil on penalties.
As hosts Canada had a men’s team that couldn’t leave the group stage at the 1976 Games, and Galt FC, representing Canada, won gold in the 1904 Games that only three men’s clubs played in.
There were many reasons why the Canadians Olympic-level men (under 23 since 1992) struggled.
In the past, there were few places at home to nurture and develop talent, and many young players had to go overseas to pursue their soccer dreams Some managed to find teams in Europe, but saw little playing time.
And since CONCACAF only sent two teams to the Olympic Games, the level of difficulty was through Mexico and the USA (five trips each to the game len since 1984) and Honduras (four trips).
The eight-team Olympic qualifier in Mexico was originally scheduled for March last year, but has been postponed due to the pandemic.
The Canadians, El Salvador defeated Buchanan 2-0 on Friday, will face Haiti on Monday at the Estadio Akron, where the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2011 Pan American Games took place.
The Haitians suffered a bizarre 3-0 defeat against Honduras on Friday where they started with 10 men on the field, including an outfield player in goal, as part of their delegation arrived late in Guadalajara, affecting the timing of the COVID-19 tests. The team received reinforcements during the game, including a goalkeeper, after the tests were negative.
It got worse when Haitian defender Djimy Alexis was sent off for a second yellow card in added time.« The tournament is on for them, » he said. « So we have to adjust that kind of intensity. »
Biello waited Sunday for news of the status of injured defender Callum Montgomery, who was replaced by David Norman at the beginning of the second half on Friday. After Thomas Meilleur-Giguere was eliminated from the tournament after a knee injury in training the day before the game in El Salvador, Biello is missing the central defender, although CF Montreal defender Zorhan Bassong is another option.
Captain David Cornelius started alongside Montgomery on Friday. He, Ballou Tabla and Lucas Dias all received yellow cards against El Salvador and would miss the group stage final against Honduras if they got another Yellow Monday.
The top two teams from each of the two groups advance to the semifinals. The winners book their ticket to Tokyo and meet Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, the Ivory Coast, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, Saudi Arabia. South Africa, South Korea and Spain in the men’s Olympic field with 16 countries.
Only players born in 1997 or later are eligible for this round of Olympic qualification (the same age limit was respected despite the one year delay in the qualifying tournament). Countries that make it to the Olympics are allowed up to three over-aged players.
Mexico, which won the last two CONCACAF qualifiers, and Honduras represented the region in the last two Olympics. Honduras finished fourth in the 2016 Rio Games while Mexico beat Brazil 2-1 and won gold in London in 2012.
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