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Canada looking to overcome tough Cuban conditions in World Cup qualifying

Canada looking to overcome tough Cuban conditions in World Cup qualifying

Canada Soccer

From a rough pitch to hot temperatures in Cuba, Canada knows it'll likely need to overcome unconventional challenges in its CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying match.

HAVANA -- If there's anything a team playing in CONCACAF learns quickly, it's to expect challenges that could potentially throw players off their game.

When Canada kicks off against Cubs Friday afternoon under the blazing Caribbean sun, it'll face many challenges that most teams in other regions simply do not have to contend with.

Whatever is thrown their way, the Canadians say they're ready for it.

"Look, if you want to play in CONCACAF, you have to accept, endure and overcome," head coach Stephen Hart said after training at Estadio Pedro Marrero on Thursday. "The heat, we can't do anything about that. The pitch, you can't do anything about that. You can only take care of things you can control, and I told the players that."

The weather at the 2 p.m. kick off time - chosen by the Cuban federation to take maximum advantage of the scorching conditions native to the island - is expected to be partly cloudy and 31 degrees Celsius (with a Humidex reading of 43C/109F), which in itself poses a huge challenge for the Canadian players, most of whom ply their trade in much more temperate climates.

To prepare for the heat, Canada trained for 10 days in South Florida before heading to Toronto for last Sunday's friendly versus the United States, which the Canadians hope will help them acclimatize to Havana's environment quickly.

"We've had some training sessions in Fort Lauderdale, getting used to the weather before the game against the States," midfielder Atiba Hutchinson said. "It's something I think we're all used to, we've been in these conditions before and we've had to deal with it, so I don't think it will be a major part of the game."

Dwayne De Rosario agreed, saying that the veteran-laden squad will need to pull from past experience and play smart in order to succeed.

"I think we're experienced enough where we can handle it," the D.C. United star said of the heat. "It's all about managing the game, and hopefully we'll be able to keep our minds and stay focused, [and] stay positive within the game when we're feeling tired and fatigued."

It's not just the weather that Canada will have to contend with, though. The pitch at the stadium is rock hard and noticeably uneven, and the grass is abnormally long. It's just another obstacle the Canucks say they'll have to get past.

"It's probably the worst pitch I've ever played on," captain Kevin McKenna said bluntly. "I think it forces you to play a little bit more direct. It's not the type of pitch to pass the ball around [on]."

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The field conditions may see Canada alter its usual game plan, something that Hart says his team is prepared for.

"We have to adapt and overcome," the coach said with a shrug. "We have to be sensible in the things that we do. There's certain things that [the pitch] will disrupt, [like] the speed at how you play and the timing of your movement."

Regardless, Hart said he has no time for anyone looking for reasons for failure.

"Both teams have to play on it," he stated. "One team [is] more accustomed to it than the other, but I don't want any excuses."

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