Occean's goal lifts Canada over Cuba

June 8, 2012

Olivier Occean scored on a header as Canada hung on for a 1-0 win over host Cuba on Friday despite playing a man down for the last half hour in third-round play in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Occean put the visitors up in the 54th minute when he directed David Edgar's cross past Cuban goalkeeper Odisney Cooper.

The lead held even after Canada goalie Lars Hirschfeld was sent off in the 63rd for handling the ball outside the box.

Canada's tight defense stifled the Cubans in the first half, preventing the islanders from organizing their attack and penetrating offensively.


However, the Canadians showed themselves to be dangerous on the counter, with Dwayne De Rosario's powerful shot ricocheting off the crossbar in the 45th.

Cuba opened things up in the second half with a dangerous shot from Dalain Aira in the 50th. Two minutes later, Hirschfeld deflected a shot from Marcel Hernandez that hugged the goal-line with no Cuban around to tap it in.

Soon after it was Occean on a counterattack for the game's only goal.

''Once again we continue suffering from the same problem,'' Cuba coach Alexander Gonzalez said. ''We handled the ball well at midfield, we had opportunities, but no player stepped up and scored.

''The defense lacked concentration at important moments. We made a mistake, and the goal arrived.''

After Hirschfeld's red card, Canada coach Stephen Hart pulled off midfielder Tosaint Ricketts and sent on `keeper Milan Borjan.

Cuba spent nearly the rest of the match in Canadian territory, but failed to find the net.

Canada continued to threaten on the counterattack, with Cooper making a nifty save on another shot by De Rosario from 20 meters.

Canada and Cuba are the underdogs in Group C, which also features Panama and Honduras. The two Central American squads were also facing off on Friday, in Honduras.

The top two from each group advance to a six-nation final stage to determine the region's three automatic qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The fourth-place finisher will go to a playoff.

Canada has qualified to play in the World Cup only once, in 1986, while Cuba was invited to take part in 1938.