OLIVA, Spain - In a game that had tackles flying in from start to finish, Canada picked up a scoreless draw against Mauritania on Sunday in what was the debut for new national team coach Benito Floro.
"At the moment we are teaching how to play collectively," said Floro, who is tasked with rebuilding the program in the build up to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in two years time.
"It's necessary to play a lot between us and to test with the friendly matches. But I understand it's very difficult to get a result against a very good national team like Mauritania, who press very excellently."
The game started under hot, but windy conditions, but grew more comfortable as the afternoon progressed. Mauritania pressured Canada relentlessly in the opening few minutes, many times getting overly physical.
"It was a friendly but definitely very physical," said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, who was captain for this game. "I think we expected that a little bit but maybe at times it was a little out of hand but no excuses. I think we need to look at the video after the game and we have to play them in another game and it's important that we can come back and get a result in the next game."
With more than 30 players in camp, Canada dressed 18 for the game, and save for their teammates that didn't play, a delegation from the Mauritanian embassy in Spain, and a few curious locals, there weren't many people there to take in the game at the resort where both teams are camped.
A young Canadian team looked shaky early as the quick Mauritanian side pressured the ball.
"I think we just needed to be a little bit more calm and maybe read the game at times," said Hutchinson. "I think at halftime the coaches said we need to play in behind them and find the pockets and create space. In the second half I thought we did that a bit better."
On more than one occasion, the West Africans got a bit carried away as midfielders Kyle Bekker and Kyle Porter went down under heavy challenges just past the 10-minute mark. The rest of the game was defined by lots of shirt-pulling and hard tackles as words were exchanged between both sets of players on numerous occasions.
The best chance of the game came in the 21st minute. Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio collected a pass from club teammate Ashtone Morgan before cutting inside and unleashing a fiercely struck right-footed curling effort that had to be tipped over for a corner kick.
"They made it difficult to develop our attack. But it's a good test for us," said Floro.
"For us, the best was our good intention to combine the play even if the opponent pressed very hard. So we need some good behaviour to start to understand perfectly to combine the attack."
Making his debut on the bench, Floro was mostly silent, only rising once or twice to direct his new team. It was a stark contrast to his counterpart, Frenchman Patrice Neveu, who barely took time to draw breath as he barked orders for almost the entire 90 minutes.
Canada controlled the possession for much of the second half and in the early few moments looked like they could get a goal.
But apart from a Dwayne De Rosario effort that was easily saved three minutes into the second half, there wasn't much offence on either end.
"In the second half I thought we did that a bit better," said Hutchinson. "We were just missing the chances. We needed to create more chances and get some shots on target and possibly goals. We'll have a couple training sessions and it's important we get a result next time."
The two teams play again on Tuesday.