Canadians say St. Kitts and Nevis footballers a ‘very motivated team’

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 12TH 2011 (CUOPM) – The Canadians say their drawn match with St. Kitts and Nevis at Warner Park on Friday night “was not a loss, but it sure felt like one.”

The Canadian Press reports they were held 0-0 by the tiny Caribbean nation of some 43,000 people, but still earned the point needed to win their second-round group and advance to the next round of qualifying.

“First of all, we’re through,” Canadian defender Adam Straith said with a shrug. “You’ve got to take that positive out of it but it wasn’t a good performance by any means. We came up against a very motivated team today in St. Kitts and I didn’t think we were sharp enough.”

Canada, ranked 83rd in the world compared to No. 109 St. Kitts and Nevis, was outplayed at times in front of a packed and boisterous Warner Park.

A band played for the entire 90 minutes and as St. Kitts and Nevis put the Canadians under pressure, belief rose from players and fans alike that something special was possible.

It ultimately wasn’t to be, but for St. Kitts and Nevis, it was an impressive result.

For Canada, it was the exact opposite.

“We allowed them way too much space, especially on the wings and they were crossing balls into the box and putting us under pressure,” said Canadian head coach Stephen Hart, who was animated at times as his players struggled with a team comprised mainly of local amateurs.

Canada has outscored its modest opposition 14-1 and taken 11 points out of a possible 15 in the group, but the last two games have left a lot to be desired with both finishing 0-0.

“All you can do is create the chances. It’s not like we didn’t create the chances,” Hart said. “So it’s always going to be our problem. It’s not like there’s a striker out there that’s playing that we don’t have. We just have to continue trying to create the chances and hopefully they’ll start to go in.”

Canada (3-0-2) plays St. Kitts and Nevis (1-0-4) again at Toronto’s BMO Field on Tuesday in both team’s final group game.

Only the pool winner advances in this round of qualifying for the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The Canadians join No. 57 Honduras, No. 100 Cuba and another qualifier in the next group phase.

The top two teams in that pool will advance to the final round of qualifying, which will see three CONCACAF teams book their tickets to the 2014 World Cup and another have a chance at joining them via a playoff.

The Canadians started out Friday like it was going to be an easy night, but after Simeon Jackson, Dwayne De Rosario and Josh Simpson all missed early chances the tide changed.

And as Canada lost its swagger and imagination, St. Kitts and Nevis answered with a few strong blows of its own.

The home side came out the better of the two to start the second half and could have taken the lead. Ian Lake missed a chance in the Canadian 18-yard box, while Isaac George had an appeal for a penalty waved off just minutes apart.

Ten minutes into the second half, Jackson fed a high, looping ball in for Julian de Guzman but his volley was easily held by St. Kitts and Nevis goalkeeper Akil Byron.

Straith led a Canadian attack down the right in the 73rd and his cross found Jackson, but the striker’s touch was poor and St. Kitts and Nevis cleared.

St. Kitts and Nevis almost won it late. After Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld palmed a Matthew Berkeley shot wide for a corner, the resulting corner kick ricocheted around the box. Despite a few claims of handball by the hosts, the ball went out for another corner.

Jackson, who plays at Norwich City in England but isn’t getting regular minutes, had another chance in the final seconds after being put through alone on goal but Byron came off his line well to preserve the draw.

“If he gets one goal, who knows — he may just score on the others,” Hart said. “We’ve been trying to show confidence in him. Today he played in a position that he’s most comfortable but he was not at his best finishing-wise.”

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