It’s now or never for Canada. The co-host nation squares off against Costa Rica Tuesday evening in Toronto at BMO Field with everything to play for in Group B. With neither side being in a position they’d have imagined prior to the tournament, they still have a chance of redeeming themselves.
Tuesday will mark the first ever Gold Cup matches to be played on Canadian soil, and with their tournament lives being held on to by a thread, Benito Floro and his men will be hoping home-field advantage will have an effect on the final result.
Both teams will, however, know what they’ll need to get out of the game prior to getting on the field. With Jamaica and El Salvador playing one another in the other group match earlier in the day, implications will be known once kick off rolls around.
Costa Rica came into the tournament as one of the heavy favourites. But after a couple lackluster performances and some untimely mistakes, they find themselves with just two points from a possible six.
Canada meanwhile did not have the expectations of their counterparts on their shoulders coming in, but did have the hopes of a nation backing them up after the Women’s World Cup was held on home soil earlier in the summer. A draw against El Salvador in the opener and conceding a stoppage time winner finds the Canadians bottom of the group with one point.
Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz will no doubt be looked upon to inspire a team that beat out world powerhouses Italy and England to progress to the knockout stages of last year’s World Cup in Brazil. Failure to progress Tuesday would be seen as a massive shock in this tournament.
Ruiz, who recently transferred from English side Fulham to Portuguese giants Sporting CP will lead the charge as his side look to fulfill expectations.
Canada can somewhat relate to Costa Rica’s situation in the sense of underachievement. With years of disappointment and failure in CONCACAF tournaments and World Cup qualifications, the Canadian Soccer Association and Floro were hoping to use this as a tournament to build for the future.
Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin’s name stands out as one that a potential rebuild of the program can be structured around. But Canada have gone 180 minutes without Larin or any other Canadian player finding the back of the net, and that has raised questions about tactics.
Floro has gone with the traditional 4-1-4-1 formation in the opening two games, yet it has failed to generate much offence. Rather, Canada found themselves defending for their lives in the second half of the game against Jamaica.
A change of personnel could be in the cards for Canada as they look for an offensive spark. Russell Teibert and Simeon Jackson could be two names that are slotted into the starting lineup.
Jackson has yet to play in this Gold Cup, and is seen as a surprising exclusion given his flare on the attacking side of the ball.
The Costa Ricans are widely regarded as the favourites in this contest, but if Canada does use their home-field advantage and progress to the round of eight, it will send shock waves around North America.