The first ever meeting between the Canadians and the Armenians takes place in Larnaca, Cyprus as both sides aim to solidify line-ups ahead of the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers in Brazil.
Coach Stephen Hart of the Canadian side is looking to build momentum after disappointing draws with St. Kitts & Nevis along with a home draw to the Puerto Rican side. A friendly against the United States remains before they continue their qualifying campaign with a group including Cuba, Panama and Honduras.
For the Highlanders, Coach Vardan Minasyan is coming off of Armenia's best qualifying cycle since joining FIFA in 1992 and was a game away from getting to the Euro 2012 playoffs. This will be the second game in as many days for the nation, following a 2-0 loss to Serbia on February 28 where Minasyan mainly sent out youth players. Confirmed friendlies against Greece and versus Belarus remain for the side before the start of the qualifiers, in which they are in a fairly difficult group consisting of Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Malta.
WHERE: GSZ Stadium in Larnaka, Cyprus
WHEN: Wednesday, February 29 at 9:00 p.m. PST, Noon EST
WATCH: Sportsnetwork (Canada), H1 (Armenia) Along with numerous online streams
PLAYER TO WATCH (CANADA): Kevin McKenna
Coach Hart revealed that 32-year-old McKenna will be serving as the Canucks captain for this friendly, and the veteran defender from German Bundesliga side, FC Köln, will have his hands, or shall I say feet, full. The Armenian side scored the most goals in their respective Euro 2012 qualifying group and will be sure to continue to pour on the attack for the full 90 minutes.
PLAYER TO WATCH (ARMENIA): Yura Movsisyan
Among the newest additions to the Highlanders side, Movsisyan has made quite an early impact, while still having a ton of room to improve as he is just 24 years of age. The young striker was drafted during the 2006 MLS SuperDraft from Pasadena City College, a community college in Los Angeles, Calif., by the Kansas City Wizards. He was dealt from Kansas City to Real Salt Lake where he helped them win the MLS Cup over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Following a stint with Denmark's Randers FC, Movsisyan moved on to the Russian Premier League side, FC Krasnador and tallied eight goals to help avoid relegation, as he did with Randers.
Movsisyan made his debut in a friendly match against Iran on Aug. 20 of 2010, but was most effective during the Euro 2012 qualifying cycle. Appearing in eight games for the Highlanders, he tallied four goals and five assists, including three in a 4-1 home victory over Macedonia to keep Armenia alive in the group.
KEY MATCH-UP: Canada's Defense vs. Armenia's Offense
Canada will surely need to try to stop a potent Armenia offensive side which tallied 22 goals in ten matches during the most recent qualifying cycle. Powered by Yura Movsisyan, Marcos Pizzelli (FC Kuban Krasnodar), Henrik Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk) and newcomer Aras Ozbiliz (AJAX), the Armenians will be sure to put on a ton of pressure.
The key to victory, however, for the Highlanders, is going to be how the defense is able to step up as veteran keeper Roman Berezovsky (Dynamo Moscow) will not be available, meaning the most likely replacement is 20-year-old Arsen Petrosyan (Pyunik Yerevan), who made his national team debut in the 2-1 loss to the Irish in Dublin to close out the qualifiers, after Berezovsky received a controversial red card.
PREDICTION: Armenia 3-1
Armenia's offense is going to be too much for the Canadians to overcome as it will propel them to victory. Mkhitaryan, Ozbiliz and Pizzelli are my picks to score for the Armenians.