June 5, 2023
Can Canada throw up a surprise or two at the World Cup?

Can Canada throw up a surprise or two at the World Cup?

The North American underdogs are hoping for a few points in their first World Cup appearance in 36 years.

Previous World Cup participations: 1986
Title: 0
Best processing: Group Stage (1986)
World Cup record: W0 D0 L3
Goals: 0
Biggest win: No profits
Player to watch: Alfonso Davies
Ranking: 41
Fixtures: Belgium (November 23), Croatia (November 27), Morocco (December 1)

Canada’s appearance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar marks the end of 36 years in the wild.

The team are expected to struggle to get out of a difficult group with Croatia and Belgium, but a strong qualifying campaign has raised hopes they will still experience a surprise or two and reach the knockout stage for the first time could achieve.

Canada had previously represented only one World Cup, the 1986 tournament in Mexico. Their historic performance was marred by three group stage defeats by France, Hungary and the then Soviet Union.

Entry into the 1986 competition marked a pinnacle for Canadian football that would remain unmatched for several decades to this day.

But it was also a sobering experience for the players as the team failed to score a single goal in 270 minutes and conceded five goals.

They were one of only two sides in the tournament not to score a single point, alongside Iraq, who had a better goal difference than Canada.

Team Canada World Cup friendly
Canada’s players sing their national anthem prior to the friendly soccer match between Qatar and Canada in Vienna, Austria, September 23, 2022 [File: Joe Klamar/AFP]

Canada will hope to regain their qualifying form when they start their World Cup adventure against Belgium on 23 November.

The team led the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifiers, winning eight of their 14 games and recording shock victories over the higher-ranked United States and Mexico.

All eyes on Davies

The Canadians will take inspiration from the incredibly talented Alphonso Davies (22) in Qatar.

Usually deployed as a left-back for his club, German giants Bayern Munich, Davies is known for his blistering pace, dribbling and shooting.

He often plays further up the front for Canada, allowing him to carve out spaces behind prolific frontman Jonathan David and give him more opportunities to dictate attack.

Davies, already widely regarded as the best player in the CONCACAF group of countries, will now have the opportunity to showcase his talent on the global stage.

His career to date has been adorned with a string of trophies, including four Bundesliga titles, several domestic trophies, a UEFA Champions League winner’s medal and a FIFA Club World Cup triumph.

Hard way ahead

Despite the excitement surrounding Davies and David, also 22, the Canadians are not expected to make it out of Group F given the quality of Croatia and Belgium.

But manager John Herman has urged his players to enjoy the tournament experience, urging them to push their limits against the likes of Croatian star Luka Modric and Belgium’s world-class players.

He said the team had an opportunity to bring about a “generational change” in Canada — where football has often been supplanted by ice hockey and other more popular sports — and “create memories that will last forever” for the country’s 38 million people.

While progress is unlikely, a competitive group stage finish would still mark significant progress for Canadian football as the country prepares to host the 2026 World Cup alongside the United States and Mexico.

For Davies and David, this year’s tournament will provide a platform from which they may be able to further develop their already established careers.

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