Unbeaten Canadians looking for win against Costa Rica in Gold Cup

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MIAMI - With a pair of victories in its first two games, Canada has become the surprise of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Already eliminated from World Cup qualifiers, the undefeated Canadians can clinch the Gold Cup Group A top spot and advance to the quarter-finals with a victory or tie against Costa Rica in their final group stage match Friday night.
"If you get off to good results, you can steamroll straight ahead," Canada midfielder and captain Paul Stalteri said. "Your confidence grows as each game goes by."
With 2010 World Cup aspirations dashed earlier this year, Canada defeated Jamaica 1-0 in its Gold Cup opener July 3, then shut out El Salvador 1-0 on Tuesday night.
El Salvador and Costa Rica, two of the six CONCACAF teams still in contention for a World Cup bid, are tied for second in the group with three points.
"We are just happy to get the two victories and to be playing consistently," Canada manager Stephen Hart said. "Whether we are the surprise of the tournament or not that's other people's thoughts.
"We are quite aware that in the group we can still finish third. Our main priority is to get a result out of the game."
Costa Rica rebounded from a 2-1 loss against El Salvador July 3 by defeating Jamaica 1-0 Tuesday night. The Costa Ricans lead the final six-team World Cup qualifying stage with 12 points, and recently moved to 30 in the latest FIFA world rankings.
"We know they need to come out and get a result so they can advance to the next round," Stalteri said. "They are one of the leading nations in CONCACAF so it will be a good test for us."
Friday's match will be the first international soccer event at Florida International University Stadium. The 20,000-seat facility has a synthetic surface which does not please Stalteri.
"I have the same opinion that I've had before," Stalteri said. "Football shouldn't be played on this stuff. It's a poor surface. It's not good for the players."
Costa Rica's home venue, Ricardo Saprissa Stadium, also has synthetic turf.
"The match is going to be like a home game for them playing on turf in hot weather," midfielder Will Johnson said. "But I think the guys are going to come out fighting.
"We are not through yet and we definitely want to prevent them from doing a lot of things that they like to do."
If Canada overcome the surface concerns and continues its strong group performances, it could help soothe another disappointment in World Cup qualifiers.
Nonetheless, Canada has a sound Gold Cup history, winning the tournament in 2000 and reaching the semifinals two years ago.
"Why come to a competition to accept just being there?" Hart said. "We are going to continue to do our best and once you get to the knockout stage anything can happen.
"You know how competitions are. We saw one in the Confederations Cup. Once you reach the knockout stage, it's anything goes."
Immediately following the Canada-Costa Rica match at FIU Stadium, El Salvador and Jamaica will play in the final Group A game of the tournament. El Salvador could create a three-way tie for first with a victory and a Canada loss.
"Canada denied us space and did not allow us to play the football we are accustomed to," El Salvador manager Carlos De Los Lobos said about his team's loss against the Canadians. "You have to credit them. Defensively we did well but our attack left a lot to be desired. We could not penetrate their defence.
"The guys know they have to correct that if they want a productive result Friday."

Organizations: Gold Cup Group, FIFA

Geographic location: Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador MIAMI Florida International University Stadium Ricardo Saprissa Stadium FIU Stadium Jamaica

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