Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada's Men's Soccer Face Mexico; One Victory Away from Rio Olympics

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada's Men's Soccer Face Mexico; One Victory Away from Rio Olympics

Article excerpt

Canada faces huge task in upsetting Mexico


Canada's under-22 men's soccer team is one victory away from the Rio Summer Games, and of erasing 31 years of Olympic futility.

There are bound to be butterflies.

"For sure we're nervous. . .we're 90 minutes away from qualifying for the Olympics, which is one of the greatest achievements for an athlete that can happen," said Canada's captain Samuel Piette. "If you're not nervous, I don't think it's normal.

"But the coaching staff has prepared well for this game, and when the referee blows the whistle to start the game, we just have to do what we have to do and whatever happens on the pitch we can't really control, we have to do our best."

The Canadians face mighty Mexico on Saturday in Salt Lake City, in the semifinals of the Olympic qualifying tournament, while the United States meets Honduras in the earlier semifinal. The winners of each earn automatic berths for Rio.

The two losing teams will have another shot at Rio. They'll meet in the third-place match on Tuesday, and the winner moves on to face Colombia in a home and away series.

"We're excited, also nervous," said Michael Petrasso. "I think it's more nerves because it is one of our biggest games (of our careers), the qualifier for the Olympics, but I think we're focused, I think we've shown we've played well in some games, the coaching staff has talked to us and calmed us down.

"It's good to have a little bit of nerves, it's good to have excited nerves. The boys are excited for the next game."

Canada hasn't played Olympic men's soccer since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. The Canadians were one win away of making it to the 2012 Olympics, but their dream died in a 3-1 loss to eventual Olympic gold medallist Mexico in the CONCACAF semifinals.

They face a mammoth task in toppling Mexico, which sports a perfect 3-0-0 record at this tournament. …

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