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WCQ Preview: Canada look to guarantee advancement

It’s been a series of largely expected results for Canada, who currently top Group D in the second round of CONCACAF’s 2014 World Cup qualification tournament.

The Canadians kicked off the round with a couple of unsurprising victories — a 4-1 win over St. Lucia in Toronto followed by a 3-0 rout of Puerto Rico in Bayamón. Then came a 7-0 thrashing of the St. Lucians in the return leg, which led many to expect a similar result when Canada hosted the Puerto Ricans at BMO Field on Oct. 11.

Except it didn’t happen. In fact, a plucky, organized Puerto Rico squad held firm in Toronto, claiming a well-earned 0-0 draw and forcing the Canadians to drop their first points of the round.

That result also had an unexpected side effect: It kept St. Kitts and Nevis, the other Group D participants, in contention. The Kittians had earned six points from their first four matches, enough to let them hang around for at least one more match.

That match is against the Canadians, who travel to Basseterre looking for at least a draw when the two sides face off Friday night (7 pm ET, streamed on A single point earned by Canada against their latest Caribbean opponents — either from Friday’s meeting or from the return match in Toronto on Nov. 15 — would give Stephen Hart’s crew enough of a cushion to ensure advancement into the next round of qualifying.

According to coach Hart, his team is relaxed and focused on the task at hand.

“Everybody’s been quite upbeat in the training sessions,” Hart told reporters in a conference call from St. Kitts on Thursday. “Training went well, we’ve had two days of training [earlier in the week in Florida] and then a 45-minute session [Thursday], so I think we’re ready.”

As for what Hart expects his players to face when the opening whistle is sounded on Friday, he says the Kittian side is one that will rely on athleticism and speed.

“I think physically they’re quite quick in both wide positions and up front,” he explained. “We have to be careful, especially on the counterattack situations. We’ve done some work in dealing with the counterattack, as that seems to be their biggest quality.”