By Darnel Harris
In the lead up to Canada and Haiti’s quarterfinal soccer match in the Gold Cup last Saturday, the warning signs were clear and storylines rich. Haiti had scored two goals in every group stage match in June 2019, including a comeback victory over Costa Rica, who played at the 2018 World Cup. Canada lost to Mexico three to one on June 19th, with Mexico taking advantage of a defensive error to score the first goal.
In preparing for the Haiti game, Canada’s coach, John Herdman, called Haiti’s speed and athleticism a red flag and noted that his players would need to be on guard against their lethal counterattack. Also, Ottawa-born Mikaël Cantave, the son of Hatian and Guadeloupean parents, was now playing for Haiti, after being not called up by Canada since 2013.
Yet, for the first forty-five minutes, Canada seemed to be handling the pressure. While Haiti’s determination and offense had given Canada problems early, goals by Jonathan David in the 19th minute and Lucas Cavallini in the 29th minute gave Canada a two goal lead at half time. Then Canada unravelled in the second half.
In the 50th minute a poor pass by Marcus Godinho and followed by an even poorer dribble by Canada’s goalkeeper were punished by Haiti’s Duckens Nazon with a goal into the empty net. Haitian pressure kept building, and a poor tackle by Godinho led to a Haitian penalty kick, which Hervé Bazile calmly scored. With the match tied, Haiti confidently played past the Canadian defence, and Wilde-Donald Guerrier chipped in a third goal to complete a historic victory.
Haiti’s victory earned a match against Mexico in last Tueday’s semifinal, where the Les Grenadiers determination and disciplined defence stretched Mexico for one hundred and twenty minutes. While Mexico was able to secure a victory due to a penalty kick awarded shortly after the start of extra time, Haitian fans could be proud of their team which never stopped fighting. Mikael Cantave had an opportunity to be a Haitian hero in the 119th minute, when his strike from the penalty arc beat Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa but not the crossbar.
As for Canada, before their loss to Haiti, Coach Herdman noted, “These are the moments (Canada) has been questioned.” For the Canadian men’s team, serious questions will continue as they prepare to take on Cuba at BMO Field in Toronto on September 7th to open Nations League A play.