Canada aiming to qualify for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Canada is grouped with Mexico, the US, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador. The top three teams will automatically qualify for Qatar. But the fourth-place team will play in an intercontinental playoff.
The Canadian men’s national soccer team has started its final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The last time Canada was in the final round of World Cup qualifying was in 1997 for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Notably, Canada has only qualified for the FIFA World Cup once, 1986 in Mexico. Now, 24 years later, with a new generation of players and coaching staff, there is a new beginning as Canada aims to book their ticket to Qatar.
Canada has been competitive and played well in its first three games of final qualifying. They had 1-1 draws with Honduras (at home) and the US (on the road) and then defeated El Salvador by a score of 3 to 0 on September 8 at BMO Field in Toronto. The final round has eight teams playing a total of 14 games (teams playing each other at home and away). Canada is grouped with Mexico, the US, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador. The top three teams will automatically qualify for Qatar. But the fourth-place team will play in an intercontinental playoff.
Canadian head coach, John Herdman, was pleased with his team’s performance against El Salvador. The win was Herdman’s 22nd victory since taking over the head coaching duties in 2018. Remarkably, according to a Canada Soccer online article, it is the most international “A” match wins by a Canada Soccer Men’s National Team Head Coach. “There’s been growth—if you get into the first couple days of training, one thing that’s clear is that foundation of trust,” Herdman said to the media after the game as reported by CBC. “We have to have that learning in the first 45 minutes against Honduras—to feel the intensity and see teams not back down.”
Canada’s next match is on October 7 on the road against Mexico. Historically, Canada has done poorly against a very strong Mexican side (ranked number 9). In 36 games played against Mexico, the Canadians have only 3 wins with 24 losses—and 9 draws.
However, there is reason for optimism as Canada has a young team with strong offensive talent upfront; forwards Cyle Larin (Beşiktaş JK in Turkey), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich in Germany) and Jonathan David (Lille OSC in France). Also, there is veteran experience with midfielder, Atiba Hutchinson (of Beşiktaş JK in Turkey). As well, Tajon Buchanan is another young forward who has made an impact with his recent play at the Gold Cup tournament. Sportsnet reported in August 2021 that Buchanan was awarded the Gold Cup’s Best Youth Player honour, and named to the tournament’s best 11 players. Buchanan plays for the New England Revolution (MLS); he is on loan from Club Brugge (in Belgium).
After the match against Mexico, Canada plays Jamaica on October 10 (on the road); followed by a home game against Panama on October 13 at BMO Field in Toronto. John Herdman understands that the road to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar will be very challenging. “Given what I’ve seen from the other results, there haven’t been that many goals separating teams,” he said. “So to [score] three goals tonight, and get an away result against the [US], and even though the first draw at home wasn’t what we wanted, we’ll take it, given what we’ve learned. Five points puts us [in] second place and we have to grow every game and every game is going to be another battle.”