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Bye-bye, Beijing, for Mexico
by Paul Kennedy, March 17th, 2008 6:45AM



[OLYMPIC QUALIFYING] It was an afternoon fans won't quickly forget at the Home Depot Center. Canada, with its hastily assembled team of no names, and Mexico, with its Golden Generation, were in a race to run up the score and earn the second berth from Group B -- and a date with the USA Thursday -- in the all-important semifinals of Concacaf Olympic men's qualifying.

Canada beat group winner Guatemala, 5-0, to put the pressure on Hugo Sanchez's Mexico U-23s, who could only beat Haiti, 5-1, in the nightcap and were eliminated. Thus ended Mexico's dream of its first Olympic medal. Its exit immediately sparked speculation that Sanchez will be gone by the end of the month.

The day's events were set up by Guatemala's shock victory over Mexico -- a 2-1 comeback win -- on Friday. Guatemala, which had beaten Haiti, 1-0, in their first game, clinched first place in Group B with the win over Mexico, duplicating the feat of the national team last fall in Los Angeles, where it beat Mexico, 3-2.

With a berth in Thursday's semifinals against Honduras assured, Guatemala's Costa Rican coach, Rodrigo Kenton, rested six starters against Canada.

Nothing indicated that Canada, missing five key players not released by their European clubs, would run up the score on Guatemala.

It wasn't until the closing seconds of the first half that Canada even got a shot on goal, but Will Johnson's goal in the 45th minute was followed by four Canada goals in the second half.

Players with U.S. connections accounted for all five Canada goals. Johnson, who grew up playing for Chicago's Sockers FC and briefly played for the U.S. under-17 national team, added a second goal. Wisconsin-Green Bay's Tosaint Ricketts scored two more, while Syracuse University's Kyle Hall had the fifth goal.

Mexico, which entered qualifying without Spanish-based stars Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, needed to match Canada's five-goal margin of victory, but struggled to overrun Haiti, which had beaten Canada, 2-1, on Friday night and would have qualified for the semifinals with a win or tie over Mexico.

Mexico was plagued by some horrendous finishing and didn't get its fifth goal, scored by Luis Angel Landin, until the 90th minute, leaving it precious little time to score the sixth goal that would have given it the edge over Canada on total goals.


Mexico could only manage one goal in the first and further dug a hole for itself when it gave up a goal by Haitian Leonel Saint-Preux in the 62 minute, a minute, after it scored its second goal.

Mexico's bid to overtake Canada was hurt when Haitian goalie Johnny Placide stopped a penalty kick by Cesar Villaluz, one of six players from Mexico's 2005 Under-17 World Cup championship team, in the 76th minute with the score 3-1.


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