Stop Alan Pulido.
The Mexican striker, who plays for Tigres and has attracted the attention of many major European clubs, scored all three goals as Mexico beat Honduras during the round robin of the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifier. He is averaging more than a goal a game. At the U-20 level, Pulido averages a goal per game.
Now, defenders Nana Attakora and Doneil Henry will likely be put in the firing line, as Canada faces Mexico Saturday in a CONCACAF semifinal. Winning the semifinal would guarantee Canada a spot in London.
During a conference call with media on Friday, Canadian coach Tony Fonseca was mum about tactics — not even willing to put out a red herring or two for the Mexicans to look over. But he did admit that Pulido will be a focus of attention.
“Obviously, keeping the ball from getting to him will be key,” said Fonseca. “We will see what we can do.”
The team will have had four days rest after Monday’s deflating 1-1 draw with Cuba, which dashed their hopes of avoiding Mexico in the semis. Fonseca admitted that his team was emotionally and physically “drained” after having to play three games in five days, which included a historic win over the Americans and dour draws against El Salvador and Cuba.
“But the group is strong again and ready to compete,” said Fonseca.
Fonseca will be missing two players: Injured striker Babayele Sodade and suspended striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu.
But, even though it’s been 12 long years since Canada’s men beat Mexico in that famous Gold Cup upset, Fonseca said years of Mexican domination over Canadian men’s teams doesn’t matter.
“It’s about the present. It’s about what we should be doing and what we can do to win the game.”
Thanks to Randy Davis at KEEPIN’ it REAL for this comment from Canadian national teamer Will Johnson: “Beating the U.S. was great and then giving up that goal against Cuba was heartbreaking. The U.S. is just as good as Mexico, so if you can beat the U.S. I don’t see why you can’t beat the Mexicans. Obviously it’s a much tougher game, but you know in Canada we never seem to do things the easy way. Best of luck to them. I’m pulling hard for those guys. I really hope they can pull it off.”