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Elsewhere in regional qualifying, Canada faces Cuba

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The United States and Mexico begin World Cup qualifying with manageable matches, to say the least: Antigua & Barbuda for the United States and Guyana for Mexico. Most of us couldn’t point to those places on a map.

Suffice to say, it’s going to get harder.

Canada has a bigger hill to climb tonight, facing the mystery that is Cuba down in Havana. Cuba doesn’t do much, international soccer-wise, so it’s hard to say what our northern neighbors are up against.

Here’s what Canadian manager told Michael Lewis from TropiGol, when asked what he knew about Canada’s opponent Friday: “To be honest, not much. We tried to scout them, the games that they played. They sent an Under-23 team because the Olympic [qualifying] was a big [thing] for them. Because preparing the Olympic team was bigger for them than this team. I will have to judge from Gold Cup and Digicel Cup, and that was years ago.”

So, good luck with all that.

Either way, the Canadians reckon they need this one.

Veteran midfielder Julian de Guzman says a good result “is mandatory.”

Perhaps. Further along on the “mandatory” scale is next Tuesday’s test against Honduras in Toronto. This will be many of the same Hondurans who went to the World Cup two years ago, so that’s no easy-breezy night.

Come to think of it, maybe de Guzman is correct. Cuba is the weak link in a group that also includes Panama (along with Canada and Honduras). So a loss Friday and then a (wholly plausible) tie next Tuesday, and Canada’s World Cup bid is already looking sketchy.

The Canadians’ World Cup qualifying quest started an immediate spiral four years ago when they drew with Jamaica right off the bat, 1-1, in Toronto. Donovan Ricketts, who would go on to star for the L.A. Galaxy, was big that night for the Jamaicans.

Highlights from that match: