So this is December. And what, Canada, have we done?

In (successfully) trolling the archives of this blog in an attempt to pilfer content, I came across a post from last December wherein the Canadian Soccer Association laid out its goals for the men’s national team in 2009, and a fellow named Edgar from a rather fascinating site called Football Rankings laid out his plans for exactly how the CSA could achieve these goals.

Well, with the year being over on the men’s national team front, it’s as good a time as any to see how those predictions panned out. And let me say, this was a somewhat eye-opening — but mostly frustrating — exercise, as you might expect.

The CSA’s hope, evidently, was that we’d hit the top 40 in FIFA rankings in 2009 (or, perhaps, by 2013, if my memory is as wonky as I believe it to be), including a spot among the top three in the CONCACAF region (which would presumably mean supplanting a squad such as Costa Rica or Honduras). Considering that we were sitting at #90 (9th in CONCACAF) by the end of 2008, that was quite a lofty ambition.

But believe it or not, we got reasonably close. We peaked at #53 (5th in CONCACAF) in October, mostly due to points accumulated from a (relatively) successful Gold Cup run, and the fact that our shitty results from World Cup qualifying in the previous year had begun to come off the books.

Now, while the CSA’s plan to shoot up the rankings was full of delicious non-specific jargon, Edgar did have three solid strategies for the year that would substantially help us achieve the goal. What were they and how did they pan out?

Get invited to the UNCAF Nations Cup 2009. UNCAF toyed with the idea of inviting a team in 2007 (Mexico and Venezuela were mentioned), but the negociations broke down. As UNCAF has only 7 teams, they always have a group of 4 and one of 3 teams, thus they need an extra team to balance things out. FIFA considers this tournament as a qualifying competition and the multiplier for FIFA points is 2.5 instead of 1 for a friendly match. Besides improving Canada’s ranking (with a decent performance of course), it will also provide much needed experience for your players.

This one was admittedly a bit of a reach, and I’m not sure if the CSA made any attempt to enact this one (nor whether they even should have). For what it’s worth, the tournament did go ahead with only seven teams, culminating in a penalty-kick showdown in the final, won by Panama, in front of a presumably raucous crowd of… 900? Yes, the whole tournament was held in one stadium in Honduras, with attendance ranging from 150 (!!!) up to a sell-out of 20,000 for games involving the Hondos and/or their hated rivals from El Salvador.

So while, yes, there would have been some experience gained, and some FIFA points picked up if Canada had lobbied their way into the tournament, you can hardly fault the CSA for not blowing their annual budget in January to fly the boys down there just to putter around against Belize in front of a few dozen disinterested residents of Tegucigalpa.

Reach the semifinals of the Gold Cup 2009 – another source of points – the multiplier for continental final tournaments is 3.

Fuuuuuuuuuck. Yeah, that woulda been nice.

Take advantage of unrealistically high ranked teams. Play friendlies against them and win. For the next FIFA match date (February 11th, 2009), Canada should try to play against one of: Burkina Faso, Macedonia, Latvia, Senegal, Mali, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Guinea, Lithuania, Bolivia.

Hey, I recognize one of those teams! It’s one of the teams Canada did play a friendly against during 2009! Sure, it was in November, not February, and we lost (Jesus Christ, did we ever) instead of winning, but at least it shows the right mindset on the part of the CSA, right?

Also, I dunno if Edgar is planning a similar preview of Canada’s 2010 campaign (why would he?), but if so, I sure hope Bosnia-Herzegovina ends up on his list of recommended friendly opponents again.

So what does next year hold? Who the hell knows. There’s a World Cup, that’s for sure. And we won’t be in it, that’s also for sure. In terms of FIFA rankings, for what they’re worth, we’re certainly on better footing than we were at this time last year (sitting at #57, 5th in CONCACAF in the most recent rankings).

Of course, the only way to keep those rankings up is to keep playing matches. And with no Gold Cup or similar international competition being played in the upcoming year, that means friendlies. Rollins has obtusely suggested to me on several occasions that a CSA source told him that they plan to schedule dozens of friendlies between now and the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup. That is a good thing. Even losses can be beneficial, in that they help build familiarity and camaraderie between the players in the men’s national team pool.

So that’s the one prognostication that I’ll stick to for 2010. That we’ll play lots and lots of friendlies. God damn, maybe some of them might even be on Canadian soil! Wouldn’t that be nice? That would be about the best that we Canadian fans could actually hope for… as it is, probably better to keep the pots of coffee brewing and our attention fixed to the official broadcaster of Canada’s men’s national team.

 

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5 Responses to “So this is December. And what, Canada, have we done?”

  1. For March 3rd:

    Benin
    Burkina Faso
    Algeria
    Cyprus
    Gabon
    Latvia
    Northern Ireland
    Bahrain
    Mali
    Lithuania

    • Edgar, you’re the man! Based on recent history, Latvia and Lithuania are probably the most likely of those choices. Though it’d be interesting for us to plat Bahrain… their supporters could give us some lessons about what World Cup qualifying heartbreak is *really* all about.

      Cheers!

  2. One more thing – CSA would do well to at least try to get invited to the 2011 UNCAF Nations Cup, because two of the favorites to get 3rd in CONCACAF (Costa Rica and Honduras) will both be there racking up precious points.

  3. Monsieur Maestracci, is that you? 🙂

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