BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Despite Canada's ability to control much of the game against a formidable opponent, it was the missed chances that stung most.
Canada suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of No. 13 Uruguay in its second last friendly before heading to Qatar for the World Cup. The 43rd-ranked Canadians dominated possession and outshot their opponents but were unable to capitalize on several occasions.
"Disappointed. I just spoke with the lads … (I) let them know that when you have that type of opportunity in a game, you got to take the chances, you got to win football matches and there's not going to be any special award for losing games where you have a chance to win them," head coach John Herdman said post-match.
"You lose games like that, you're going to drop out of the World Cup pretty quickly and go home. I'm happy with elements of the performance, don't get us wrong. We're a real team and we've got to take those moments."
Although Canada dominated possession (59-41 in the first half, 55-45 overall), it was Uruguay that set the tone early making the most of its opportunities.
Nicolas De La Cruz scored on a free kick from the left side just outside of the box in the sixth minute, putting by the near-side post as goalkeeper Milan Borjan could not get enough on the ball to stop it.
Following a close miss on a volley shot from a Luis Suarez cross five minutes earlier, Liverpool star Darwin Nunez made up for it with a header goal in the 33rd minute off a cross from Suarez to double the score.
"The goal from Suarez to Nunes, I mean, it's just two top top, top, top level players where that's what they do. They got a few chances and they took them," Herdman said.
The Canadians on the other hand, had trouble scoring on legitimate chances. Canada outshot Uruguay 11-6 (3-2 on target) and took seven corner kicks to zero for Uruguay.
"I know I've got top level players as well. We've got to take our chances," Herdman said. "There's moments I thought we could have crossed the ball and we wanted that extra touch and there's people waiting and there's moments where we could have pulled the trigger and it's an extra pass. We'll grow through this."
Alistair Johnston missed on a header from a cross sent by Alphonso Davies in the 12th minute. A dozen minutes later, Cyle Larin found an opening, taking a pass from Davies, but his left-footed shot was saved.
In the 39th minute, Davies drew the attention of multiple defenders outside of the box before sliding a pass to an open Larin inside the box. With the ball bouncing in front of the Brampton, Ont., native, he had his shot blocked after attempting to get it set properly.
Larin missed again one minute later on a header following a cross from Samuel Adekugbe. In the 41st minute, Davies once again pulled the eyes of multiple Uruguay defenders and sliced a through ball to send a streaking Jonathan David into the box but his shot was stopped.
Getting into Uruguay's zone following a giveaway, Davies corralled the ball after a Canada cross was knocked away and found David driving towards the box. David turned around and shot from just inside the box but Sergio Rochet saved it leading to a corner.
After Davies' corner was cleared out of bounds, Uruguay handed the Canadians a free kick with a foul in the 64th. Stephen Eustaquio sent a pretty cross into the box, but Kamal Miller headed the ball just over the net.
Twenty-one minutes later, Davies took a pass from Tajon Buchanan but had his shot blocked from outside of the box. In the 91st minute, he was high and wide on a shot from outside of the box. Junior Hoilett had the final chance but also went above the net in stoppage time.
"Normally, we're used to our players just finishing these types of plays, right? Now it kind of was the opposite. On a normal day, I know (David), (Davies) can finish those balls. I just want to think they're going to save it for Qatar," said Eustaquio after the match. "We lost 2-0, but it's a test. Qatar (is) in two months and I think we'll be ready."
"It's another level. You can't switch off the whole game. I just felt like it was two moments that cost us the game but throughout the game, I thought we were brilliant," Miller added. "Second half, I felt like we dominated, kept them out of our box. It's just those critical moments that are going to win or lose you critical football matches. The back line room plus Milan are going to look at the performance and see what we have to fix so we don't feel like this again."
Canada entered the game having defeated No. 48 Qatar 2-0 last week. The national team plays its final World Cup tune-up match on Nov. 17 against 24th-ranked Japan before taking the pitch Nov. 23 against Belgium in World Cup action.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2022.
The Canadian Press