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Martinique a mystery for Canadian national team to solve

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(NOTE: Before Colin Miller began his media call Thursday, the Canadian Soccer Association’s press contact advised that he would not address any reports about Friday’s news conference in Toronto, where former Real Madrid and Monterrey boss Benito Floro is expected to be named coach of the national side)

In the mind of coach Colin Miller, the Canadian national men’s team simply isn’t good enough to take anyone lightly.

And that’s why he won’t allow his players to look past this Sunday’s Gold Cup opener against Martinique, even with matches against the No. 1 and 3 countries in CONCACAF , Mexico and Panama, looming on the horizon.

“We’ve hammered it home every day here, our total focus is on Martinique,” said Miller from Canada’s pre-Gold Cup training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

Canada will be the underdogs in its remaining two group-stage games, so the Martinique game is critical. If it comes down to Canada being one of the top third-place group-stage teams that will go through, goal difference could be critical. After total points, the next tiebreakers between the third-place teams are goal difference and total goals scored.

But, it’s hard to do homework on a team that isn’t really a national team. Martinique is a protectorate of France, so for the purposes of FIFA events, the island’s players are eligible to play for Les Bleus. But, because it is recognized by CONCACAF, it plays as its own entity in the Gold Cup and the Caribbean footballing championships.

It also means that Martinique doesn’t play very much. And when it does, it’s not an attention-grabber

“It’s very difficult to get stuff on them,” said Miller. “We have two or three good reports, no much in terms of video…. We’re not in a position to underestimate anyone.”

What Miller does now is that Martinique recently beat the Portland Timbers U-23 side by a 2-1 count, and that it is a good technical side. Steve Gustan and Stephane Abaul scored for Martinique against Portland’s youth side. Abaul plays for one of Martinique’s most recognized teams, Club Franciscain.

Miller only has one injury concern: Striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu got a knock on his knee and is a doubt for Sunday’s match.

And Miller won’t read anything into Canada’s 1-1 draw with the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL, the national side’s only warm-up match this week. Miller said his goal was to get every player in camp 45 minutes, and each of the three goalies 30 minutes of playing time.

“If anyone looked too much into the result of that game, it would be foolish,” Miller said.

The coach also heaped praise on midfielder Will Johnson, who was named Canada’s captain earlier this week. In his previous stints as Canada’s interim coach, Miller didn’t have the chance to work with Johnson, who is having his best-ever MLS season in 2013, and it wouldn’t be speaking out of turn to talk about him as a potential MVP candidate.

“He has a winning mentality, a fierce competitor,” said Miller of the Timbers’ star midfielder. “If I would have worked with him before, from day one he would have been my captain.”

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