MEXICO CITY —The buildup to Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier felt more like a Globetrotters’ exhibition, with Canada playing the role of the Washington Generals.
Like every match played inside Azteca Stadium, the result felt pre-determined. Canada showed up, made an effort, but eventually fell 2-0 to a Mexican side that’s more talented than it has ever been.
By most peoples’ standards, Les Rouges kept things close. The Canadians arguably played a more controlled match than they did last Friday in a 3-0 loss to this same Mexico side at home.
Still, two big defeats have Canada sitting with a goal-differential of minus-4 —which could be too deep a hole unless it gets a more favourable result in Honduras later this year.
Following a win over El Salvador Tuesday night in San Pedro Sula, Honduras now sits level with Canada on four points.
But Los Catrachos’ goal-difference — the first tie-breaker — is a manageable minus-1.
Add it all up and it means Canada faces another do-or-die qualifier in Honduras this September. A loss and they’re surely done barring a miracle result on the final day of Round 4.
Next up for Canada bench boss Benito Floro is picking up the pieces following back-to-back qualifiers against El Tri — especially since Tuesday night’s loss felt like a mere formality.
Like it did four days earlier, the Mexicans punished Canada’s defensive mistakes early in the proceedings. Both of the home side’s first-half goals were the result lazy defending.
In an otherwise solid performance, Doneil Henry brought down Marco Fabian inside the penalty area in the 17th minute. Mexico’s Andres Guardado converted from the spot to open the scoring.
When it looked like the overmatched Canadians would slip into half-time with a manageable 1-0 deficit, Mexico’s Jesus Corona recovered possession at the top of the penalty area and punished the visitors.
Corona’s stoppage-time spin move beat a gaggle of Canadian defenders before he turned and blasted an effort past Kenny Stamatopoulos, who entered following an injury to normal No. 1 Milan Borjan.
The second-half slowed to a crawl with Mexico already assured of a place in CONCACAF’s final round.
With close to 75,000 urging him on, second-half super substitute Chicharito had shouts for a penalty waived off five minutes from full-time.
The Canadians, meanwhile, appeared to have all but conceded the final scoreline. That or the altitude here in Mexico City left them exhausted.
The match was so poor and boring local fans booed at full-time.
Although a result here Tuesday night was never in the cards, Floro will face questions concerning his selection.
Canada’s 63-year-old Spanish bench boss continues to insist on deploying Doneil Henry — a central defender — at right fullback while seemingly abandoning steady defender David Edgar.
Ahead of Tuesday night’s qualifier Edgar and Floro discussed something post-training as they sat in isolation. It was hard not to ponder what the conversation was about.
Beyond Canada’s defensive frailties concerns persist at the opposite end of the park. Les Rouges didn’t produce a shot on target at Azteca Stadium Tuesday night.
They’ve scored just a single goal through four Round 4 qualifiers and they’ll be in tough to enter San Pedro Sula in search of a goalless draw.
Canada travelled to Honduras under similar conditions four years ago and departed with a humiliating 8-1 loss.
For veterans Will Johnson, Julian De Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson it will be a welcome chance at redemption. Should Canada escape Honduras on Sept. 2 with a draw it would advance to the hexagonal with a win over El Salvador on Sept. 6 at home.