Hart preaches focus ahead of Canada's match vs. Cuba

Canada plays its final two World Cup qualifying matches of 2012 in quick succession, and coach Stephen Hart wants his players to focus on each game individually.
TORONTO - With two upcoming World Cup qualifying games in quick succession, it may be natural for Canada to worry about both of its opponents at the same time.

The Canadians host Cuba on Friday night before taking on Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 16, with the results of those two games determining whether Canada will advance to CONCACAF's final round of qualification for Brazil 2014.

Yet even with the two massive games coming fast and furious, head coach Stephen Hart has preached the one game at a time philosophy, urging his players to not look past the already eliminated Cubans.

"Meeting with the staff, [it was decided] that we keep everything focused on the Cuba game, all discussions on the Cuba game, and not to worry about something that we haven't even really started to discuss in terms of preparation," Hart told reporters after training at BMO Field on Wednesday.

"As soon as the game is finished, the Cuba game, then you can decide what your discussion is going to going to be on Honduras."

The coach said he was pleased with his players' response to the request, saying that the squad has been training hard over the past couple of days with just one goal in mind: beat Cuba.

"For me, every game you go into in this [qualification], we have tried to have the team mentally prepared that its a very important game, it's a big game," he said. "Nobody can be underestimated."

The Canadians are favoured to defeat the pointless Cubans, and, depending on how things go in Friday's match, they have the chance to put themselves on level terms - or better - with Honduras in the goal differential column.

The Hondurans currently boast an advantage in the tie-breaker, and with the Central Americans deadlocked with Canada on seven points at the moment, it means that Honduras sits ahead of the Canucks in second place in a tight Group C.

Only the top two teams will advance to the next round of qualification, with Panama perched atop the group with nine points for the time being.

While Hart is well aware that a big scoreline against the Cubans could do wonders in nullifying Honduras' goal advantage, the coach said that he will not instruct his players to try to run up the score.

"All I'm talking about with the players is playing for the result and if the goals come, the goals come," Hart explained. "My experience is if you bog down the players' minds with scoring a lot of goals, what happens is they play with a lack of discipline and things go out the window."


Striker Iain Hume, who rejoined the national side after a protracted situation that saw him leave his old club team in early September, doesn't believe that the three-team race for the top two spots in the group will add any further desperation to pile on the goals.

"If you ask the lads, they don't put any added pressure on themselves," Hume said. "They go out there and try to do the job that everyone tries to do as soon as they step on the field."

The 28-year-old added that he doesn't personally feel any added pressure to assume the offensive load in the absence of Dwayne De Rosario and Josh Simpson, two players who were relied on for their creativity in the attack.

Hume feels that, even without those injured teammates, his role remains the same.

"My job is to score goals," he stated. "When I'm on the pitch, my job is to score goals and create goals and do as much work as I can."