Home Global Game Europe Hainault’s goal gives Canada 1-0 win over Belarus in clean Antalya friendly

Hainault’s goal gives Canada 1-0 win over Belarus in clean Antalya friendly

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It was played in an empty stadium in Antalya, Turkey. There was no television coverage. Fans had to follow the game through Sportsnet’s live chat or on Twitter.

But this is what we know: despite coach Stephen Hart putting together a lineup that was heavy on European-based players, an MLS man got the goal that gave Canada a 1-0 win over Belarus in a friendly on Tuesday.

Will Johnson’s corner kick was headed home by the Houston Dynamo’s Andrew Hainault in the second half. That’s what the Canadian Soccer Association’s Twitter feed read. According to the Belarusian Football Federation’s website, the goal came off a cross from Josh Simpson, not the Real Salt Lake midfielder.

Belarus, ranked 37th in the world but reeling after an upset 1-0 loss to Albania in a Euro 2012 qualifier on Saturday, didn’t make wholesale changes to the lineup. The backline, keeper and strikers were pretty well the same as for the Albania match.

Belarus was missing its best player, Aliaksandr Hleb, the former Arsenal midfielder who is on loan from Barcelona to Birmingham City. But his brother, Vyacheslav Hleb, who has played in China, Switzerland and his own domestic league after an unsuccessful bid to stick in the Bundesliga, played up front.

But, more important than the victory was how the game was won. There were no controversial penalties or strange cards. FIFA has charged the officiating crews from the last two internationals played in Antalya, as all goals scored in those games came from penalties.

The Canadian Soccer Association had pledged that this match would not have the odour of match-fixing, as referees would be selected through the appropriate channels, and that it and the Belarusian federation were working together to make sure all the appropriate FIFA protocols were adhered to. In the matches in question, referees had been hired by independent agents.

Antalya has made a cottage industry for itself in attracting national sides and club teams to play friendlies there. Because the games are often played in front of empty stadiums, there is a fear that promoters make money on the fixing of games.

So, it was important that this game be settled on a clean goal, and that there be no clear signs of shenanigans.

It’s frustrating that the game was not broadcast in Canada, but understandable. For Sportsnet to set up a full crew in Antalya, and with no other broadcaster with which to share a feed, sending the game back to Canada would have been an expensive proposition. And, with most of the potential viewers in the middle or beginning of their busy Tuesday work schedules, the viewership numbers would not have been great. Still, it looks bad on us as a soccer nation when we get Euro qualifiers on TV, that England’s game is available on TSN2, and our own national team is reduced to Tweeting about itself to get its game action out to fans.

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