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Win over Cuba ancient history for Canada as it faces Honduras in qualifying

06/11/2012 06:17 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - After Canada's men's soccer team overcame the scorching heat and spotty pitch to upset Cuba on foreign soil last Friday, coach Stephen Hart allowed his players a brief time to revel in the result.

Then they promptly filed those feelings away.

Canada hosts Honduras on Tuesday in the second game of the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Another victory would give Canada six points and some considerable breathing room heading into a two-month break.

"(I told them) the usual stuff, enjoy the moment for a couple of hours and then understand that you've achieved nothing, we've achieved nothing," Hart said after practice Monday at BMO Field.

The 77th-ranked Canadians defeated Cuba 1-0 on Friday, while No. 46 Panama defeated 55th-ranked Honduras 2-0 in the other game in the group.

After Tuesday's matchup, the national side, gunning to make its first World Cup appearance since 1986, takes a break before picking up World Cup qualifying again in September.

"It's going to be massive for us, we don't want to go into the next two months with any regrets of what could have been if we'd won maximum points," said David Edgar, whose well-placed cross led to Olivier Occean's goal versus Cuba.

The Canadians played through soaring heat on Friday that left Hart joking that he just hoped his players "didn't die." They also played a man short after 'keeper Lars Hirschfeld was shown a red card for handling the ball outside of the box.

Milan Borjan played well as Hirschfeld's replacement, immediately facing a dangerous free kick.

"It was difficult because I didn't warm up or anything, it was a tough situation to come in on, winning 1-0, a free kick on the 18-yard-box. . .," Borjan said. "But the guys gave me the confidence, the coaches they gave me confidence, so it was good."

He'll be Canada's 'keeper against Honduras while Hirschfeld serves a one-game suspension.

Hart said he has faith in whichever Canadian 'keeper he has in net, saying there's little difference between the two.

"New goalkeeper, different name," Hart said. "Other than that, the players wouldn't be picked if I didn't think they could do the job."

Borjan and his teammates made a plea to fans Monday that has become an all-too-familiar refrain — come out and cheer them on. International games in this multicultural city see crowds often lopsided in favour of visiting teams, and Borjan hopes to see a sea of red rather than the blue and white cheering on Los Catrachos.

"It's very important, and it's not just me, it's the whole team," said Borjan, who made his Canadian team debut in February of last year. "We need all the supporters to come to the field, when people are cheering for you it gives you so much confidence, so I hope I see a full field Tuesday."

Canada defeated Honduras 2-1 the last time the two teams met, in a friendly almost two years ago in Montreal — a victory that snapped a string of eight matches without a win.

Honduras arrives in Toronto after a rare loss at home, but Hart doesn't believe the visitors will let any sense of desperation throw them off their game.

"They're a wounded animal but it's one game, they've lost one game, OK, it's a home game, but I think Honduras has too much experience to be desperate," Hart said. "They're going to come in here and think it's only Canada, and they can get a result here."

Atiba Hutchinson may start after coming in as a second-half substitute versus Cuba. Hart subbed the PVS Eindhoven midfielder, who has been nursing a knee injury, into the game to be a stabilizing influence when the Canadians went down a man.

Hutchinson calls Honduras a very technical team that can move the ball up the middle at great speed.

"But we've been working a lot on our shape and being compact as a team and being well-disciplined so we'll have to just carry that into the game," Hutchinson said. "Also when we're going forward, I think we're creative enough to get chances and hopefully we can get the goals."

The top two teams in the group will advance to the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Canada will travel to Panama and Honduras in the fall. The Canadians host Panama on Sept. 7 and Cuba on Oct. 12.

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