February 23, 2013
USA-Canada U-20's look toward Tuesday's quarterfinals
PUEBLA, Mexico -- What an appropriate neutral venue for a border clash with so much on the line between the United States and Canada -- another North American country.
The two neighbors will knock heads in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Under-20 World Cup here on Tuesday.
The winner will clinch one of the four semifinal berths and a spot in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey later this year.
The loser will return home empty handed.
The confrontation was made possible by a pair of wins by the rivals on Friday night. The U.S. recorded a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica to clinch the Group A title, while Canada qualified for the quarterfinals with an emphatic 5-1 triumph over Nicaragua. The Maple Leafs finished in second place in Group B behind Cuba.
“It will be a special match as part of the Canada-USA rivalry,” Canada coach Nick Dasovic said. “I’m sure they will be up for it just as much as we are.”
U.S. coach Tab Ramos did not want to bask in the glory of a win because the Americans' real challenge lies ahead vs. the Canadians.
“I don’t want to take away the fact that the players should enjoy that we won the group, so we want to do that for a little bit," he said. "But at the same time we have to recognize that we’re here for Tuesday’s game. Everything we’ve done so far for the past year and a half has been for Tuesday’s game, and we have to get there. Today was just another little step toward our goal.”
When the U.S. clinched the group title, it did not know which team it would face in the quarterfinals. But the Americans realize it was do-or-die for both teams.
“It’s a go-hard-or-go-home game, so we’re just going to come out here and train harder and get ready for that game and make it to the World Cup,” U.S. forward Danny Garcia said.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, so it doesn't want to make it two consecutive times of not reaching the biggest world stage for U-20 players and teams.
“We’re very prepared," said forward Jose Villarreal, who scored the lone goal of the match against Costa Rica. "Mentally we’re getting there, but physically I think we’re fit. Mentally we’ve got to work on a couple things and we’ve got to fight through it like we did today.”
Midfielder Luis Gil, who set up Villarreal's goal, already was focused for the confrontation on Friday night.
“We’ve got to be prepared for it," he said. "We’ve got to be mentally sharp now and move on from this game. I feel like this is the past now. It’s just that one game that can make it or break it.”