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Canada will need to be perfect if they want to beat Mexico

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Mexico national team travel to Vancouver, Canada with hopes of cementing their place at the top of Group A in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. They say it is not a matter of how you get there, as long as you get there, but after a rough road to Brazil, El Tri will be looking to keep pace in what has thus-far been a campaign surprisingly short on accustomed drama.

Indeed, World Cup qualifying hasn't come easy for Mexico in the past two World Cup cycles. In fact, for the sake of storytelling, one of the most widely recognized moments of World Cup qualifying in recent years came in a game against Canada.

The scene was Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton Alberta, and Mexico twice came from a goal down rescue a 2-2 draw with the Canadians. For the hosts, the result was no more than just a point in another underwhelming qualifying campaign. For El Tri, however, it was the difference between making the Hexagonal or watching the 2010 World Cup from home.

As Vicente Matias Vuoso, author of Mexico's second equalizer, recalled proudly in an interview five years later: "Perhaps the goal that has marked me the most was the one against Canada. People still talk about it when they see me in the street and remember it."

Of course, when both sides meet again in two days, each side will be doing it in a different way. Either Canada will have something positive to take to the Estadio Azteca, or Mexico will have boosted their chances at an early qualification to the Hexagonal.

Juan Carlos Osorio, now three games into his spell in charge of Mexico, has had a successful start to his reign. Despite a small stint at Liga MX club Puebla, Osorio had no real connection with Mexican soccer. The biggest question asked about his appointment was how somebody could come in the from the cold and sort out the side in time for the crucial start of World Cup qualifying.

But opening wins against El Salvador and Honduras has underlined subsequent progress. Under pressure, the results were plain to see. Mexico found their shooting boots against El Salvador, and then earned their first win at Honduras in more than 22 years.

The Canadian threat, though, is different that he one posed by Central American sides; it is little wonder that their previous two matches in the group produced only one goal. For Spanish manager Benito Floro, an attacking platform is only secondary to his concerns.

Floro is no stranger to the Mexican game. In 1999, he managed Rayados de Monterrey for two years, and he more than anybody knows Canada will need to be perfect and give nothing away. The key for Floro will be to make it as difficult as possible to score and make it Canada's root motivation on the pitch. The reality is Mexico is a far superior team in open play, and Canada will have to radiate the feeling they would do just about whatever is required to disrupt the Mexican attack.

An example of this was perhaps best displayed in a friendly back in February where Mexico defeated Senegal 2-0. Senegal moved towards implementing a game-plan geared more into the direction of defensive positional traits. Senegal kept compact and forced Mexico to pass the ball sideways. It was all a bit formulated, with Senegal playing with a 4-1-4-1, but for the first 73 minutes, it worked to perfection.

Defense, then, gave Senegal their opportunity against Mexico, and Floro will feel that his Canada side will have to do the same in both Vancouver and Mexico City's Estadio Azteca.

None of this is to question the quality of Canada's attacking threat, not least in Orlando City forward Cyle Larin, but it's just that against a team like Mexico, it usually means the attacker's jobs will involve more running and hustling.

As it stands, all suggestions from Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is that his three-forward formations won't change, at least from the start of both the Canada games. The defensive line and midfield may change during the game, but as it has been visible throughout his first three games, Osorio likes playing with three forwards.

Still, it obviously could all change if Canada string a surprise or two. The result from that disappointing fall Edmonton night hardly matters anymore, but the echos of past qualifying stage despairs still reverberate loudly in the Mexican camp. Whatever happens, doubts will likely still exist heading into the Hexagonal. For now, it is about avoiding the same drama from eight years ago in Canada. Floro, though, will hope history repeats itself a second time.