Toronto— The Canadian Press
Published Friday, Sep. 02, 2011 10:27PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Sep. 02, 2011 11:28PM EDT
Credit Canada with a lopsided win, albeit a frustrating one in the opening to its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Tied 1-1 with Caribbean minnow St. Lucia, the floodgates finally opened after the referee stepped in and awarded the home side a penalty in the 50th minute.
Canada went on to win 4-1 Friday night, taking its time to dispatch a team that at No. 184 — the FIFA rankings only go to No. 203 — is ranked 82 places below it in the world pecking order.
The good news is the end result was never in question and Canada has a ways to go before it is tested against quality opposition in qualifying.
Still for what seemed like an eternity, Canada bossed everything but the scoreboard Friday. But by the time the final whistle went, the home side had outshot the visitors 30-6 (15-1 in shots on target) and collected 12 corners to St. Lucia’s none.
“The truth is I have seen them play better,” St. Lucia coach Alain Providence said of Canada. “For one reason or another, they looked rather average.”
Canadian coach Stephen Hart said his players tried to do too much too quickly.
“We played like we wanted to win the game in 15 minutes,” he said.
His halftime instructions?
“You can’t just be throwing yourself forward and not thinking about the end product, of how it’s going to finish. It was marginally better in the second half. We got the goals and we’re just happy to start with a win.”
In seeing the glass as half-full, Hart was happy to see the number of chances Canada created.
“Hopefully next time they will go in the net.”
Josh Simpson scored twice for Canada (in the sixth and 61st minutes) with singles from Dwayne De Rosario (50th) and substitute Will Johnson (second-half injury time).
Tremain Paul scored for St. Lucia in the seventh minute with a long-range shot that swerved past Lars Hirschfeld.
The game drew a vocal pro-Canada crowd of 11,500 to BMO Field on a damp night. There were cheers for St. Lucia as well, particularly from the north stand.
In the other Group D game, visiting No. 144 Puerto Rico tied No., 122 St. Kitts and Nevis 0-0. Canada plays in Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
Should Canada win its pool, it faces two more qualifying stages in the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean before it can book its ticket to Brazil in 2014.
The St. Lucia team did not arrive at its Toronto hotel until about 2 a.m. local time Friday. Providence explained that Air Canada and Westjet, the airlines that fly to Canada, only have flights from the island on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“That is the best we could have done,” he said of the late arrival. “And maybe finances had a little to do with the time that we arrived.”
After early goals by Simpson and Paul, the Canadians were unable to breach a shaky St. Lucian defence until De Rosario broke the deadlock with a 50th-minute penalty after Pernal Williams handled an Ante Jazic cross into the box.
De Rosario’s goal was his 18th for Canada, one behind Dale Mitchell’s record of 19.
Simpson added to the lead with a 61st-minute goal, slotting the ball home after Atiba Hutchinson sent him in alone.
There were more missed opportunities — wide shots, timely blocks, unlucky bounces — as the clock wound down before Johnson made it 4-1 in stoppage time.
St. Lucia’s Williams was sent off for a second yellow card in the 88th minute.
The St. Lucia team looked outclassed and the Canadians came at them in waves early on. The visitors seemed to be fielding a six-man backline when Canada had the ball, but the Canadians still found holes.
The finishing was off, however. Still every Canadian attack was an adventure for the St. Lucia defence.
The St. Lucians weren’t above rough-housing when needed and several Canadians found themselves bodied to the ground. The visitors seemed somewhat more brittle when the shoe was on the other foot, with many requiring time-consuming medical attention.
Simpson scored in the sixth minute, collecting a raking ball across the box from De Rosario and sending a shot that bounced in off Cassius.
Just when it seem the floodgates were about to open, St. Lucia’s Paul struck back from long distance.
The St. Lucians are a largely amateur side although two members play semi-pro soccer in Trinidad. And midfielder Zaine Pierre moved to Italy a month ago to join Genoa.
Friday’s game was the first of a journey that will last three rounds, 22 games and 25 months if Canada makes it to the final stretch in CONCACAF qualifying.
Canada’s lone success in World Cup qualifying came when it reached the 1986 finals.