Oh, Canada! … We Stand On Guard For Thee


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The final 17-man Olympic squad of CANADA led by head coach COLIN MORRIS, who qualified automatically for the competition as the host nation, pose for the official team photograph just prior to the start of the football tournament at the 1976 Montreal Summer Games.
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All of the country’s best players, naturally, were to be found in the professional employment of North American Soccer League clubs. And so, the football squad of Canada, never an international powerhouse to begin with, would have to make at the 1976 Summer Games due with a mixture of veteran amateurs, college students in addition to aspiring teenagers. Still, the host nation were more than happy to give it their very best effort.

After the withdrawl of Zambia from the tournament, Canada were left with a mini-group featuring the interesting pair of the People’s Republic of (North) Korea and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Canadians opened with their great rivals in the sport of international ice hockey, the U.S.S.R., with a match at the newly-constructed Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The Soviets were, of course, the defending co-bronze medalists from the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich and stocked throughly with “amateur” players from Dynamo Kiev, the winners of the 1975 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. According to the official Match Report of FIFA, an audience of 24,591 turned out for the occasion — not a bad number by North American standards.

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Italy World Cup striker GIORGIO CHINAGLIA (9) of the New York Cosmos, the all-time leading goal-scorer in the history of the North American Soccer League, watches as Canada Olympic goalkeeper JACK BRAND of the Rochester Lancers, who was signed by the Cosmos and when New York won the ’78 Soccer Bowl, brings off a fabulous, flying save between the sticks during an NASL match at the newly-constructed Giants Stadium in the summer of 1977.
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The overmatched Canadians did concede two quick goals inside the first eleven minutes to the far-more experienced Soviets. VLADIMIR ONISCHENKO, one of nine Dynamo Kiev players in the Startelf for the U.S.S.R. Olympic side, was resposible for both strikes. But German-born goalkeeper JACK BRAND of Toronto Italia, who went on to a distinguished NASL career, kept the sheet clean the rest of the way and 27-year-old, Scottish-born midfielder JIMMY DOUGLAS of Hamilton Croatia actually pulled a goal back for Canada with two minutes remaining.

The 2-1 loss by Canada to the Soviet Union was not the end of the world but a second half collapse in the second match led to the Canadians’ immediate exit from the competition.

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Seattle Sounders midfielder HARRY REDKNAPP (27), the well-known former West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth player and current manager of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in London, and Canada international midfielder PETER ROE (12) of the Toronto Metros-Croatia, the English-born, native of Manchester, race for the ball during a North American Soccer League match in the summer of 1978.
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Canada’s second group game was staged at Varsity Stadium in Toronto but was only a little more than half full (12,638 spectators) for the match with North Korea. Perhaps the home side could have done with more encouragement, then. The Canadians fell behind less than twenty minutes in to the North Koreans, who had pulled off the stunning upset of powerful Italy at the 1966 FIFA World Cup held in England.

Douglas, who did play 11 games in the NASL for the Toronto Metros during the 1974 season before returning to the amateur ranks permanently, leveled for Canada six minutes after the break but all hell broke loose as far as the hosts were concerned soon enough. SONG NAM HONG scored in the 66th minute and added another ten minutes from time to settle the issue. Thus, the People’s Republic of Korea finished second in the three-team group and progressed to a quarterfinal meeting with defending Olympic champion Poland.

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Canada international midfielder WES MCLEOD, who made his senior international debut at the age of seventeen in a friendly versus Poland in 1975, started both games for the host nation at the 1976 Summer Olympics; McLeod later had eight successful years with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and immediately made his mark with six consecutive NASL All-Star selections from 1977 thru 1982.
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Canada did have a pair of North American Soccer League ‘veterans’ on the roster at the 1976 Montreal Summer Games. 20-year-old PETER ROE had already appeared in 27 NASL contests and scored six goals over three summers for the Toronto Metros-Croatia before taking the 1976 season off to play for the national team. But Roe did not establish himself in the first team and would not appear for Canada in either match at the Olympic tournament, itself.

Roe did return to the NASL the next year and continued to turn out for the Metros-Croatia, Toronto Blizzard, Vancouver Whitecaps and Tampa Bay Rowdies until the league finally folded in 1984.

The 23-year-old Brand also had experience with Toronto in the NASL having played 17 games in 1974 and 1975 before briefly returning to the ranks of amateur football for the Olympic season.

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The national Startelf of Canada pose for a photo prior to a World Cup qualification match in 1981. Two first team defenders of the 1976 Summer Olympic squad, BOB BOLICHO of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and BRIAN GRANT of amateur side Hamilton Croatia, are second and third from left in the back row, resepctively. Canada did not reach the final tournament in 1982 but the reserve goalkeeper from the ’76 Montreal Games, TINO LETTIERI of the Minnesota Kicks (front row, far right), would become the only Olympian who would make the Canadian squad for the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
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The blog, being run by decent, German-American brothers whose mother made them go to Presbyterian church growing up because it was the closest one down the street, would like to extend best wishes to the poor little Jewish girl who recently had her hair set on fire in a Winnipeg public school by another student alleged to have been yelling anti-Semitic slurs.

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