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Canadian Men's National Team - Article  
De Guzman: Finishing chances the focus against Belize
Julian de Guzman


Posted by
Steve Bottjer
September 3, 2015

Steve Bottjer

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In the lead up to the Canadian Men’s National Team’s next two World Cup qualifying matches against Belize, Head Coach Benito Floro has been adamant that his side won’t underestimate the 123rd-ranked Central American side.

While he concurs with his national team Head Coach on that point, veteran Canadian International Julian de Guzman also believes that Canada must attack their opponent vigorously and establish a positive goalscoring rhythm for the squad to build upon in the eventual semifinal round of CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying tournament.

“We’re definitely the favourites home and away,” De Guzman. “Of course it is important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves. That said, the game against Dominica had a lot to do with how we went into the Gold Cup and I think it is the same going from these games into the next qualifying games. We have produced a lot of chances but it is up to us to convert them.”

“Against Dominica we created twenty-five chances and I think we only scored a handful of goals,” De Guzman continued. “Then we went into the Gold Cup and only created a handful of chances and we couldn’t score on any of them. I think that is the important theme with this team right now – putting our chances away and also playing the way that Benito wants us to play. It is important that we take advantage of this first leg at home and get the goals we need and to try to set the flow going into the second match in Belize.”

In De Guzman’s estimation, despite Canada’s inability to progress out of the Gold Cup at this summer’s competition, CONCACAF’s premier tournament nonetheless provided both positives that the team can build on in World Cup qualifying and experience that will be vital when Canada likely faces off against CONCACAF powerhouses in the next round of World Cup qualifying.

“I think the entire squad that was there and the Canadian fans all feel the same way – we were disappointed that we weren’t able to come out of the Group,” De Guzman explained. “We had goals we set for ourselves going into the Gold Cup and we weren’t able to reach them. At the end of the day, we can still take several positives moving forward. I think the guys showed a lot of heart and passion in the tournament. We fought through a tough group and you could see those were the types of teams you will eventual face in World Cup qualifiers, so in a way that prepares us for the next stage if we do hopefully go through against Belize.”

“At the end of the day, it was the time for a lot of the guys to get the feel for it and the reality of big matches in CONCACAF – guys like Cyle Larin, Russell Teibert, Jonathan Osorio and a lot of the young guys who have now had a chance to get the experience to know what they are up against going into an important World Cup qualifying stage,” he continued. “One of the things that players like Tesho (Akindele) and Cyle brought up after the game against Jamaica was that they were battling against the weather and a team that was very physical and who were becoming a stronger team throughout the game in such difficult conditions.”

“Tesho said after that match that it was the hardest game he had played in his entire career,” De Guzman added. “One thing I had to point out to him was that game wasn’t even played in Jamaica. These are the things that a lot of the guys have to realize – playing at home is one thing, but when playing against these teams on their home fields there are a lot of other factors that you have to deal with. It is good that we have guys who now feel that they have been in that mix and have had to deal with the weather, climate and eventually the opposing fans.”

While many of Canada’s young core players will now head into the Belize matches and future World Cup qualifiers with more experience to their credit, the Canadian Men’s National Team’s will also receive a massive boost in the return of key veteran midfielders for the home and away series against Belize.

“It is great that we have guys fit again,” De Guzman stated. “I think first and foremost for a national team it is about having guys fit. It is not often that Atiba (Hutchinson) and Will (Johnson) have been able to come into these camps together and with both being fit. It is a huge difference. I think that is one thing that we are up against going into World Cup qualifying – we have to have guys fit and playing at their clubs and coming into Canada camps in good fitness and form.”

“When that is in place, I’m sure you will find a stronger core of guys for these important matches,” the Toronto native added. “It can only better our team. At the last Gold Cup we were a bit thin in terms of quality, but at the same time that gave some young guys a chance to get some experience and matches under their belts. But when it comes to crunch time you do want to have your strongest core involved.”

While his own fitness was in question for the Belize matches to the degree that he wasn’t initially called up for the current International break, De Guzman was pleased to finish off by admitting he that is very close to being able to go against Belize.

“We are cutting it close,” De Guzman said. “The injury I had was one where you are usually looking at 4-6 weeks until I would be back fit, but the progress has been good in Ottawa. The rehab and medical staff have been on point and they have got me back on my feet to the point where I have been able to get some good training in at this camp.”

“So far it is looking good,” the 82 times capped Canadian International added. “I wouldn’t say I’m 100% yet but I’m very close to that. There is still hope that I could get some minutes in the first leg against Belize.”

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