Octavio Zambrano isn’t worrying about which team Canada will face next at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The national men’s soccer squad advanced to the quarter-final round with a 0-0 draw against Honduras on Friday night. That gave the Canadians a second-place finish in Group A with five points (1-0-2) through the group phase.
Canada will play its quarter-final contest Thursday in Phoenix. The Canadians won’t know who their opponent is until group phase action ends Sunday.
Not that it matters to Zambrano, the Canadian team coach.
“The most important thing for us right now is us,” he said. “If we play like we have up to now, we’re on to something.
“It’s more about us than the opponent. I have seen improvements from game to game. The players are empowered by the knowledge that they can play with anyone on equal terms.”
Team captain Patrice Bernier agreed.
“The players believe that we can win and that is a good thing for this young group,” he said. “We know anything is possible.”
The Canadian team has continued to excel under Zambarano, who has two wins and two draws since taking over as head coach.
“The most important thing that I have seen is that the players are believing to get the power by knowing they can play against anybody in equal terms,” he said following the game with Honduras. “Getting to that point has been quite the challenge so what that does is that allows you to take a little bit more freedoms and risks as you develop.”
Both teams had opportunities to score in the contest.
Marcel de Jong, usually a defender, started in an advanced role on the left side and almost put Canada ahead in the 23rd minute. Junior Hoilett crossed from the right side and the ball was advanced by defender Steven Vitoria.
The left-footed de Jong struck his volley off the post to the right of Honduran goalkeeper Luis Lopez. Honduras countered with forward Ovidio Lanza’s header in the same minute that just missed high over the Canadian goal.
With a minute remaining in the first half, Honduras again came close to scoring when Alberth Elis’s header off a corner kick beat Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan. But defender Michael Petrasso was able to clear the ball out of the air before it could go into the net.
Substitute Jonathan Osorio nearly put Canada ahead in the second half but his curling, long-range shot was stopped by Lopez. Then Vitoria redirected another solid Honduran effort to keep the game scoreless.
Canada won the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup.