An opportunistic goal five minutes into the game turned the dynamic on its head for Canada’s Men’s U-20 Team, as instead of turning early pressure into a goal, they suddenly found themselves chasing against a Cuban team more than happy to sit back and slow the game down as much as possible.
And so despite their possession domination, Canada was frustrated time and again and had their task of battling back made all the more difficult when Cuba scored on one of the few chances they mustered in the first half to double their advantage.
“We weren’t nearly good enough in the first half for all the possession that we had and we had pretty much 80 percent of the ball, I’d say,” said Head Coach Rob Gale. “We didn’t play with the tempo and the energy that we needed and one mistake on the first goal was absolutely crucial, as you’d see—because the opposition slows the game down.”
Canada came out much better in the second half. They got on the board through an unlikely source in defender Jackson Farmer, who was seeing his first action at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
Farmer would later have another chance saved by a diving Cuban goalkeeper.
But as time wore on in the second half and Canada couldn’t quite put it together, Cuba did everything they could to see the clock out. It was their prerogative to slow the game down and use up as much clock as possible and they used just about every way possible to achieve that.
And as much as Canada swung in cross after cross, Cuba adequately took away the space to deny Canada a tying goal.
“We had to go direct in the second half and, to be fair, they did respond and put everything into it,” said Gale. “We were unlucky not to take chances.”
Canada wraps up play in Group B on Thursday against Honduras.