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Butler: London goals met, though none in the back of the net

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Noel Butler
10/18/2013 6:56:32 PM
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LONDON - Starting out at the Canadian Consulate in rather exquisite Grosvenor Square, my day Tuesday concluded with a visit to one of the most unique football settings there is in all of English football.

As the land which invented modern day Association Football and with that ticket to Rio on the line, it seemed Prince Harry included, the entire nation's focus was entirely fixated on a sold out Wembley Stadium in North London Tuesday evening.

Not mine.

Leafy London, SW6 and a football stadium constructed in the 1890's on prime real estate nestled alongside the banks of the River Thames be my destination.

The history of the venerable Craven Cottage dates all the way back to the 1780's, where the original cottage existed until burning down in dubious circumstances in the late 1880's.

Modernized with great care and expense over recent seasons, Craven Cottage has been Fulham's home stadium for close to 120-years.

On a chilling London Tuesday evening, the Cottage, as it's affectionately known in these SW6 parts, played host as Canada took on a World Cup Finals bound Socceroos. A so termed friendly and the culmination of a 10-day London camp for our Men's National Team.

Conceding the softest of goals from the opening whistle within the same time frame Usain Bolt takes to win three gold medals, was not the idealist of starts.

However following the goal, the 3,500 or so in attendance witnessed a spirited first half performance from our latest creation of a men's team.

A performance which could best be described as putting into applied practice, in a live setting, Benito Floro's 10-day football theory master class staged over at QPR's training complex - located some 10 miles due west and within close proximity of London's Heathrow airport.

With a high energy and some outstanding movement in the attacking half of play, the men's national team created gilt edged opportunity over the next 44 minutes as they strove with Canadian-like endeavour to tie it up.

Losing Julian de Guzman early on due to hamstring problems didn't dent enthusiasm or guile.

The back of the net though remained as elusive as it has been over recent times and if it continues for much longer, the only trophy our MNT could win is if they give out prizes for goalless seasons.

We're all now well aware the storm in a tea cup which erupted here in London Thursday in regards to a certain aspect of Roy Hodgson's half-time pep talk in the Wembley World Cup qualifier Tuesday night.

What though happened in that Canadian dressing room at the interval remains a mystery. Yes a number of not fully bled youngsters were introduced. So what?

They knew their roles going in. Woefully though and almost to a man, including the more experienced players, any manner of enthusiasm and forward thinking was left in that 115-year old dressing room.

Lethargy took over and tracking back became a thing of the past.

Speaking to captain Dwayne De Rosario post match he had an explanation.

"Well obviously in the second half guys a lot of guys who haven't got a lot of caps came in. Benito did tell us at the start of the game we would be coming off to give opportunity to the young guys to see them in this environment and test the waters."

Break water they certainly did not. Australia were so dominant in the second-half, thoughts of San Pedro Sula came racing back as the 'Roos added two more easy goals.

It finished 3-0 in favour of a nation which only four days before Tuesday's match unceremoniously jettisoned their head coach. One who only recently delivered Australia to yet another World Cup Finals.

Anyone know when Roman Abramovich took up his role with the Australian Football Federation?

My gosh Holga. Yes you'd overseen two matches against Brazil and France where combined your team leaked in a humbling 12.

No room for that in Frank Lowry's world. Lowry the maverick Australian multi-millionaire who almost single handedly has dragged Australian football from the dark ages to where they are today.

Such is his influence that Australia was able to navigate out and away from the more challenging Oceania Continental Conference and transferred over to lightweight Asia. Not sure if this transfer came in the summer or January window.

De Rosario was very matter of fact about the defeat. "It's disappointing, as it's another loss in a game where yet again we did not score."

Adding, "We have got to continue to work, and work and work. We got a long road ahead of us as you see tonight. Let's stay positive, let's make sure the group stays positive and learn from our mistake and hopefully every game we get better and better. I still see there is quality out there, despite the result."

For many a veteran, this could be the cue to hang up the international boots. Not for this 2011 MVP, whose club season has been so pitiful, DC United have even managed to make Toronto FC appear enthralling like.

De Rosario disclosing, "No it never crosses my mind. I still enjoy wearing the Canadian jersey, I'm still proud to be called up. It's a huge honour for me, I still love the game. I believe I still have something to offer and I think I proved that in the first half."

Disappointed with the outcome Tuesday the match itself was the curtain drop to the vital 10 days spent in camp with QPR playing the role of very gracious hosts.  "I didn't see Harry, but the first team were training and it was a great environment for the young guys."

The "Harry" De Rosario refers to is not Prince Harry but that old scoundrel himself Harry Redknapp.

Which bought back memories of the first time I attended a professional football match - I was a snooty nosed little five-year old urchin in tow with my parents and two brothers.

Craven Cottage was the venue as Fulham entertained West Ham.

A West Ham team resplendent with the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters with a very youthful looking Redknapp playing in midfield that day. Fulham had a world cup winner in their ranks too, George Cohen.

De Rosario himself was left suitably impressed with the venue. "The young guys see this stadium on TV and to have that experience they got tonight was valuable."

Marooned in likely the hottest metropolis in the globe right now didn't faze the veteran when asked if he had chance to get out and enjoy the host city of last summer's Olympics.

"Not really. The focus was camp, and the game. We got out for a little bit for four hours or so but I know what this city is all about. The main thing was this game today."

Next Week Part II:  Julian de Guzman – provides insightful thoughts on Floro, and 'The Kids' during Camp London. Plus De Guzman's rather candid and strained thoughts on his hometown club, Toronto FC.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel

David Carney Julian de Guzman (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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