Preview: Canada vs. Cuba

Preview: Canada vs. Cuba

With their spot in the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup hanging in the balance, Canada take on Cuba this Tuesday at Shell Energy Stadium in the final group fixture for each side.

Following a 0-0 draw versus Guatemala on matchday two, Canada must win this encounter to advance into the knockout stage for a fourth successive time, while the Cubans were officially eliminated after dropping a 4-1 decision to Guadeloupe.

With a second successive draw in this competition, the prospect of a first trophy in 23 years for Canada is in jeopardy.

On what was the country’s 156th birthday this Saturday, John Herdman saw a lacklustre outing from his side as the 34-degree (Celsius) heat, 65% humidity and pro-Guatemalan crowd seemed to wear down his Canadian players, who created very little in possession.

The Lone Star State of Texas has not been kind to this team historically, with Les Rouges capturing only one of their nine matches played there.

While their two performances at the 2023 Gold Cup are a far cry from what we saw in 2021, their formula to advance into the next round is quite simple, win.

That is the only thing they need and must do on Tuesday to qualify for the last eight, and they will enter this encounter on a six-match winning run versus Cuba, with their previous Gold Cup triumph against them being a 7-0 shellacking in 2019.

The Canadian attack has not been at its best in this tournament, but they were sharp on the back end versus Guatemala, as they failed to concede in the group stage of the Gold Cup for the first time since trouncing the Cubans in that 2019 clash.

Since that victory over Cuba, the Canadians have conceded the opening goal at the group stage of this tournament in four of its subsequent five matches, with their goalless draw on Saturday being the only time they did not.

Coming into this tournament fresh off an impressive CONCACAF Nations League campaign in which they topped their group with 15 points, there was a lot of optimism that Cuba could cause a few surprises at the Gold Cup.

Instead, we have seen the same old same old from Los Leones del Caribe, who have now lost five straight matches in all competitions, with their last Gold Cup triumph coming in 2015 versus Guatemala (1-0).

If there is one positive that Pablo Elier Sanchez can take away from their defeat to Guadeloupe, it might be that his side managed to find the back of the net, becoming the first Cuban team to do so at this tournament since 2015.

It is not just their past defeats in this competition which have to be frustrating, but also the manner in which they have lost those games, with the Cubans allowing three or more goals in 13 Gold Cup fixtures this century.

They have incurred a lengthy losing spell against the Canucks, one which dates back to 2005, though aside from that 7-0 drubbing at the 2019 Gold Cup, Cuba have put together some positive performances against Les Rouges in this competition, narrowly losing 2-1 in 2005 after winning 2-0 a couple of years earlier and playing to a 0-0 draw in 1999.

Since a 2-0 triumph against Canada at the 2003 Gold Cup, Los Leones del Caribe have lost every one of their matches versus North American opponents, scoring only four times over that span, with their last one coming in 2013 when they suffered a 4-1 defeat against the USA.

More often than not, the Cubans have started a Gold Cup fixture on the wrong foot, notching the opening goal in only six of their encounters at this tournament and emerging victorious 50% of the time in that scenario.

Canada CONCACAF Gold Cup form:

Canada form (all competitions):

Cuba CONCACAF Gold Cup form:

Cuba form (all competitions):

We say: Canada 2-0 Cuba
The conditions may favour the Cubans on Tuesday, but this team look disorganised and without much conviction or creativity when in possession.

Canada have been underwhelming to this point of the tournament but playing perhaps the weakest side in this competition should give them plenty of scoring opportunities, and at some point, we have to think they will find a breakthrough.

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