Canada has actually ended up being the very first CONCACAF country to book a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And it's no insult to the blossoming soccer nation to admit that this is a truth numerous did not see being available in a million years.
Sure, Canada had budding world-class players in Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, however two stars don't make a team. The former hasn't even played for Bayern Munich, never mind his nation, since being diagnosed with myocarditis in January. And yet, Canada keeps on winning.
When you consider Canada's place in CONCACAF, the unpleasant memories throughout the years, and a patchwork squad from all corners of the globe, getting approved for Qatar 2022 is really an extraordinary accomplishment. This framework sets the tone for years of Canadian soccer, and looks ahead to a quick growth of the sport in the northern country.
John Herdman constructs a winner in Canada
The juggernaut John Herdman has actually built is nothing except amazing. English-born Herdman is an anomaly himself, in fact. Many questioned the hire, bringing over a coach who had specifically women's team experience, initially with New Zealand for 5 years before a move to Canada in 2011.
" This is an amazing country where I've had the ability to spend six years on the women's side of the game," Herdman stated upon his hire, "however with the 2026 World Cup on the horizon and a chance on the men's side, there's an authentic system in place here that can actually, truly take the men's program to another level."
Keep in mind how Herdman himself freely targeted the 2026 World Cup-- where Canada will joint-host with the United States and Mexico-- in his opening interview. He will not tell you now, but not only is the Canadian men's program ahead of schedule, it has actually blown that schedule to pieces.Canada didn't just receive the World Cup, it dominated the CONCACAF Octagonal, suffering just one defeat in 13 qualifying matches while displaying both stout tactical acumen and a surprisingly established talent pool.
" For John, whenever he talks to the team, this man makes me feel like I want to go through a wall. Each time he talks with the team, he motivates us to a different level."
- Alphonso Davies
Aside from Davies and David, Herdman has actually needed to pluck players from different corners of the globe from places where high-level North American skill does not frequently emerge.Alistair Johnston, who was playing collegiately at Wake Forest University just 3 years earlier, has actually morphed into one of the steadiest fullback presences in the whole continent. Atiba Hutchinson, now 39 years old, is a natural leader whether he's on the field or not. Fiery goalkeeper Milan Borjan has won 4 Serbian league titles and has Champions League experience at Red Star Belgrade. Centerback rock Steven Vitoria has played 5 Portuguese clubs alone since finishing from Porto's academy in 2006. Junior Hoilett was a free agent in 2016 prior to rediscovering himself with Cardiff City and now Reading.
The determination displayed throughout the professions of each player in the Canada squad shows that of Herdman, who himself was training in Sunderland's academy when a position with the New Zealand women's team opened in 2003. The coach sees his own unconventional course reflected back at him in each member of the team.
Canada in the World Cup: Why it's a big deal
It's simple to piece together why qualifying a World Cup is a huge benefit for soccer in a country.A national eagerness around a prominent sports success achieves far more than simply bringing home FIFA prize money. Canadian fans have rallied behind Herdman's squad for months, and that excitement ought to push a greater appeal for the sport throughout the country.
Toronto FC, CF Montreal, and the Vancouver Whitecaps should see an almost immediate bump in attendance, attention, and interest. It's obvious that the United States national team development has actually straight benefited Major League Soccer as a whole, and vice-versa, so Canadian club teams ought to enjoy a similar increase.
The players should see a rise in appeal too, and those based locally, such as Johnston and Kamal Miller, could see their professions take another step, both economically and on the field.
Finally, World Cup qualification is most impactful when it comes to the long-lasting development of the game in the country. One successful cycle can beget more future successes, and as the sport grows in popularity at grassroots level, the national team can feel the increase in the cycles to come.
Canada's agonizing World Cup qualifying past
Canada's history in World Cup qualifying has been an uncomfortable one, and exorcising those satanic forces is a major action towards future success. Since reaching the 1986 World Cup as winners of the CONCACAF Championship, the nation had tumbled at every turn, relatively developing new heartbreaking methods of falling just short.
In 1989, Canada stopped working to get approved for the final stage of the CONCACAF Championship, being up to Guatemala on away goals. In 1993, it lost on penalties to Australia in the intercontinental playoff. In 1998 World Cup qualifying, Canada topped its third-round group with six unbeaten matches, just to finish bottom of the Hexagonal with an abysmal -15 goal difference and simply one win.
After those agonizing exits, the national team bottomed out. The qualifying campaign for World Cup 2002 saw Canada finish well short, a distant third behind Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in Group 1 of the semifinal round. In both 2006 and 2010 qualifiers, Canada again came nowhere close, last in its third-round group both times.
Les Rouges started to pick themselves up from there, only for the heartbreak to return. In the semifinals of 2014 World Cup certifying, Canada missed out on an place in the Hex by a single point, embarrassed 8-1 in Honduras in the final match of the 3rd round-- a win would have seen Canada top the group. It took place again in 2018 qualifiers, the team falling a point shy of getting approved for the Hex thanks to a late loss in Honduras.
Put that entirely, and you'll see that Canada hasn't even took part in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying since the 1998 cycle.
How Canada got approved for the World Cup
Fast forward to the 2022 cycle, and Herdman is exorcising devils with each passing day. Canada opened the new Octagonal with a pair of 1-1 draws against Honduras and the United States. This was hardly anything to foreshadow what would come, however Canada can tell you from experience that every point is important in World Cup qualifying.
Then, Canada took a point at the famous Estadio Azteca, and people started to see. As the results gathered, so did the attention, but it didn't stop the team's development. Canada beat Mexico and the United States both at home, huge results in which Les Rouges should have all three points.
Those results were sandwiched by redemption in San Pedro Sula, where a 2-0 success over Honduras laid to rest those past disappointments.
Canada held just 36 percent possession against the United States and 41 percent possession against Mexico in a pair of home wins, scoring two goals in each. Les Rouges have actually constructed a counter-attacking identity that acquired more prestige as it gained success, but each match it still somehow appeared to stun the opponent.
It's not just Canada's strategies that constructed a winner, however. Herdman's personality oozes confidence, excitement, and energy, which dripped down to the team. Unearthing first-rate talent in Davies and David also contributed, but as Davies' time away has actually revealed, this cohesive system is much more than just one or two super star players.
Canada at the FIFA World Cup
It's a thin history for Canada at the World Cup.
Les Rouges have actually qualified the finals simply once in the nation's history, in 1986 when fellow CONCACAF competitor Mexico hosted.
Canada, coached by Englishman Tony Waiters, was drawn into Group C for that event, along with France, the Soviet Union, and Hungary. Canada did not fare well, losing all 3 matches and failing to score a single goal.
The loss to France in its opening match was the most remarkable, as the scoreline stayed level until Jean-Pierre Papin scored a 79th-minute winner for a 1-0 outcome. That was followed by 2-0 losses to both the Soviet Union and Hungary, and Canada bailed out.
Can Canada win the World Cup?
As is the case with all CONCACAF sides, almost definitely not. William Hill has Canada at 250/1 to win the World Cup, while places like SkyBet have them set as high as 1000/1. No matter where you look, Canada is ruled out a competitor to declare the trophy, nor must it be.
However you wager your bottom dollar Les Rouges will complete.
Passage from the group stage wouldn't be a stunning result given the basic set across qualification. Still, watch any of Canada's matches from this cycle of World Cup qualifying, and you'll see a team constructed to succeed against not simply other CONCACAF teams, however the more established world powers also.
A team that soaks up pressure and counters with intent and venom, this is one that can reach the knockout stage. Canada could roast any side that sees itself as the preferred, while if any European, African or South American power believes it will have an easy out, they've already fallen into the trap.The magic will undoubtedly, eventually, go out, but not before Herdman and Canada have announced themselves to the remainder of the world. They have currently given CONCACAF a disrespectful awakening.