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Canada Beats Nation Ranked 39 places Higher, Media Unimpressed

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Criticism of the coverage following Canada’s 2-1 victory over Curaçao

Soccer: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifyer-El Salvador at Canada Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

When I’m not writing for 86 forever I work in a deli processing meat. As I’m one of the younger people working there I often get sent on coffee runs. Today I was on just such a run when I decided to take the opportunity to check what happened in the Canada game. I found that Canada had won 2-1. I opened a match report by Sportsnet’s John Molinaro. I gave it a cursory glance and saw a passage that really irked me.

I have a real problem with this section as I think it wholly misses some important contexts of the win. Is the fact that I’m writing this article evidence of the Napoleon complex of someone who writes for a relatively small blog? Possibly. This shouldn’t be seen as some indictment of John Molinaro. I just don’t like the way this particular article is written. Perhaps it’s just a nitpick but it bothers me and I figure I might as well make use the platform I have to make my grievances known.

The problem with this section as I see it is that it seems to imply that beating Curaçao should be easy for Canada. Curaçao’s small size and population are brought up in an almost sneering way. It implies to the reader that such a country can’t produce a serious team and that only beating them 2-1 is just another in a long line of Canada’s embarrassing struggles against tin pot little nations. Indeed if you look at the comments on the article, always a dodgy proposition, you see that many of the commenters have jumped on this notion. What is not mentioned in the report, or by any of the commenters, is that Curaçao are actually pretty bloody good with a lot of players playing in some very good European leagues.

The secret to this success is the teams time with Patrick Kluivert, of Barcelona fame, as the head coach. Lots of people in Curaçao emigrate to the Netherlands. This means that there are many dutch players who are eligible to play for Curaçao through a parent. Kluivert took full advantage of this fact and his connections in the Netherlands to bring in a number of Dutch based players who, while they weren’t good enough for the Dutch national team, were still good enough to cut it as professionals in high level professional leagues. Of the 11 players Curaçao started, 9 of them have significant experience in the Dutch Eredivisie. The players you’re most likely to have heard of are Cuco Martina and Leandro Bacuna who have played in the Premier League. It’s arguable that this gives them a much better level of player pedigree then Canada. This is reflected by the fact that Curaçao are ranked 70th in the FIFA rankings, 39 places higher then Canada who are ranked 109th. I know that the FIFA rankings are flawed but this still shows Curaçao are an impressive side no matter how small of an island they are or how few people live there.

It seems to me that these facts are something one might wish to mention when writing about a team in order to fully inform the readers. Surely if you are a sports writer it’s your job to let people know such things. Obviously I don’t know the situation at Sportsnet. I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure with deadlines and whatnot. However to not include these important facts about Curaçao just reeks of giving the country a quick Google and slapping the first facts that come up into your article. Molinaro’s failure to mention the high levels the Curaçao players play at is even more perplexing as pre-match he tweeted out a team sheet that listed all the players clubs. Did he just not look at the team sheet very hard?

Canada out shot, out possessed, and most importantly outscored a quality side. While it’s true that Curaçao are hardly a world power, they are also not just a tin pot little nation with the local postman playing in goal. They are a team of accomplished professionals and it’s very encouraging that Canada showed quite well against them.