2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Cracking the Canuck conundrum

One FIFA.com user recently summed up the frustration of many Canadian fans. "There are such talented Canadian players all over the USA and Europe," fumed shaqattack before asking: "Why is it that our national team continues to be so awful?"

The frustrated Canuck is overstating his point. The Maple Leafs are not awful and did, after all, manage to qualify for a FIFA World Cup™ back at Mexico '86, win a CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000 and roared to the semi-finals of that same cup of nations this summer. However, his point is valid. Why, with large immigrant communities hailing from every football-loving corner of the globe and a raft of outstanding players at clubs in major global leagues, has Canada failed to become a consistent power in the North, Central American and Caribbean zone?

"I've been involved with the Canadian national team programme since I was 16 and it's always been like this," said Dwayne De Rosario, one of Canada's top players, who recently scored the winning goal to see his Houston Dynamo crowned MLS champions for the second time running. "It's a shame too because the fans and the players deserve a lot more. We have a great bunch of guys in the team that want to be part of something big but we don't get together often enough and it seems like we don't get a lot of backing from the federation."

With a handful of friendlies in the run-up to the first hurdle of qualifying for the last FIFA World Cup in Germany, the Canadians just barely snuck past lowly Belize before tumbling out of the first group stage with only one win from six games.

"I am convinced that if there was more investment in the team we would have a lot more success at international level," De Rosario added in an interview with FIFA.com, citing the lack of finances as the major stumbling block. "If we had a programme funded as well as the USA's, we would be just as successful as they are," he claimed.

Despite being known as an ice-hockey and lacrosse country, Canadian football fans are neither few nor far between, as record-breaking attendances at this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup in the country firmly attests. A dearth of world-class talent is also not the problem. Alongside De Rosario, coach Dale Mitchell (who lined up for Canada the only time they ever reached a world finals - and lost all three games without scoring a goal) also has the likes of Julian De Guzman (Deportivo La Coruna), Atiba Hutchinson (FC Copenhagen), Paul Stalteri (Tottenham) and several more to call into their squad.

In all, the Canadian national team pool contains top-flight, first-team players from no less than nine European leagues, and scores more across the southern border in the increasingly competitive Major League Soccer. The introduction of the first Canada-based MLS franchise and the construction of national team's headquarters in Toronto last year also speaks volumes about the increased interest in the game and a new dedication to improve the country's standing.

"It's just so frustrating when you know you have the talent and you're breaking your backs to do well and you just don't feel like anyone is backing your play," added De Rosario, who was an integral part of the team that were so close to beating the USA and reaching their second Gold Cup final this summer. "We are not concerned about budgets. We, as players, love playing for Canada and being Canadian and we will do whatever we can as players to do our part."

Despite obvious concerns, the Houston-based playmaker was keen to finish the interview on an optimistic and decidedly Canadian upbeat: "Sure there are problems, but we'll put those aside and do what we can as players to make an honest run at qualifying for South Africa 2010."

A recent friendly loss to South Africa seems to point that things are going wrong for the Canadians in the run-up to the CONCACAF qualifiers, but it was only their third loss in ten matches in 2007 and the first in which they failed to score.

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