Canada Proves It Is No Pushover


It should have been clear by now that Canada, like the United States, no longer is a pushover in international soccer.

That lesson, however, has not yet been learned by Honduras.

Playing a particularly uninspired brand of soccer, the Hondurans were beaten, 3-1, by the Canadians on Wednesday night at Anaheim Stadium in the opening match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

In the second game of the doubleheader, El Salvador defeated Trinidad and Tobago, 3-2, to the delight of the majority in the crowd of 27,125. The winning goal came on a penalty kick by Raul Diaz Arce at the 73rd minute after a hand ball by Trinidad defender Ancil Elcock, who was red-carded for deliberately keeping the ball out of the goal.

Two goals by midfielder Kevin Holness, making his first start for Canada in the absence of several regulars, and another by Carlo Corazzin were enough to give Honduras the first of what may well be back-to-back defeats and a quick return to Tegucigalpa.

No need to have worried about getting those visas after all.

Brazil is the other team in Group B and, as Canadian Coach Bob Lenarduzzi said Wednesday, there is every reason to fear the South Americans even though they have brought only an under-23 team to the nine-nation tournament.

"As far as I'm concerned, that might even make it more difficult," Lenarduzzi said. "Some of the [veteran] players sometimes go through the motions, but the younger players won't be doing that. They'll be out to prove that they belong on the senior team and, in the short term, that they should be chosen for the Olympics."

Canada plays Brazil on Friday at 5 p.m. at the Coliseum. The winner of each of the three Gold Cup groups and the best second-place team advance to the semifinals. The United States opens play Saturday at 4 p.m. against Trinidad and Tobago at Anaheim Stadium. Tonight at 8, Mexico plays St. Vincent and the Grenadines at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

While the overwhelming majority of Wednesday's crowd was there to see El Salvador, which provided its fans more than a few memorable moments, the Canadian victory was not without its highlights.

Canada took the lead in the ninth minute on a 20-yard shot by Corazzin, who received a through pass from the right, controlled the ball with a single touch and unleashed a drive that Honduran goalkeeper Wilmer Cruz dived to get a hand to but could not stop, the ball going in just inside the left post.

The Canadians, despite being without five starters who were either injured or unavailable, were quicker to the ball through the first 30 minutes and more purposeful in their approach to the game.

Their industry was rewarded in the 27th minute when Holness, a 24-year-old originally from Kingston, Jamaica, fired in the second goal from inside the penalty area, catching Cruz in no-man's land, off his line and without a clue.

The Honduran defense, perhaps thinking Holness was offside, didn't react. Holness' goal, like Corazzin's, was his first for the national team.

At the other end of the field, the Canadian defense was solid, supported by a midfield willing to race back and help out. In goal, Craig Forrest was superb, at one point flinging himself across the net to tip a fierce shot by Honduran striker Milton Nunez over the bar and later making a particularly controversial save.

A downward header from Nunez appeared to have crossed the line before Forrest scooped it out of the net. The Hondurans appealed to the linesman but no goal was awarded.

"[Forrest] was outstanding," Lenarduzzi said. "He made a great save off a long-range shot that he tipped over the bar and a great save on what a lot of people thought was a goal. I honestly could not tell whether it was in or not, even off the replay. I'm sure the Hondurans will tell you it was in."

Angered by the disallowed goal, Honduras cut the margin to 2-1 when forward Presley Carson knocked in the rebound of a shot by Alex Pineda that Forrest had only managed to block.

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