MANAMA, Bahrain — Canada missed some of its top talent and equalized Bahrain 2-2 with an 81st-minute own goal in a World Cup warm-up game on Friday.
After Bahrain took the lead from the penalty spot in the 65th minute, not clearing the ball paid off. Substitute Zachary Brault-Guillard sent in a low cross that ricocheted off the leg of striker Lucas Cavallini and a defender, deflecting into the Bahrain goal.
It was eventually settled as an own goal rather than a No. 18 for the burly Vancouver Whitecap forward, who appeared to do a little dance to get his leg on the ball. But then it hit the defender next to him.
Ismael Kone scored Canada’s opening goal.
“A very good test and just the kind of test we needed,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “We knew Bahrain would treat this like a big game and they brought a real intensity.
“It’s what we needed to shake off some rust and be able to assess some players at this level. I think what we’ve learned is that there were some good moments, but there’s still work to be done. We’ve got to get the team cohesive and get them back into that rhythm of the game.
Herdman will be getting reinforcements soon.
He did not have his full squad for the game against Bahrain as almost all of his European-based players are still with their clubs. They will be released after the weekend’s games, with the players selected for the World Cup traveling to Doha.
Canada will announce their World Cup squad on Sunday, with Herdman, who fielded 39 players in qualifying, opting for 26 in the final. A number of decisions have already been made for him with goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and defender Scott Kennedy both absent through injury.
There was another setback on Friday when defender Doneil Henry, who was set to captain Canada for the second time, suffered a late scratch after falling in warm-up.
“It was one of the toughest moments of my career today, watching the big man suffer,” said Herdman, who was awaiting a further assessment of Henry’s injury.
Joel Waterman, making his Canada debut, started in his place with Samuel Piette leading the team.
The Canada men will play one final game against No. 24 Japan next Thursday in Dubai before their World Cup opener against No. 2 Belgium on November 23.
The Canadians got a taste of the conditions that awaited them in Qatar. At kick-off (6.30 p.m. local time) in the Al Khalifa Stadium, it was 29 degrees Celsius.
Canada, who are ranked No. 41 in the world compared to Bahrain at No. 85, controlled most of the game and led early but paid for an error in a first half that ended 1-1. Bahrain looked threatening on the counterattack.
Bahrain went 2-1 up about 20 minutes into the second half with an Abdulla Yusuf penalty after Alistair Johnston found Mohamed Marhoon on the edge of the box. Canadian goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair took the penalty but couldn’t stop it
Bahrain showed a physical side early on as Mark-Anthony Kaye fell in a tough tackle.
Kone opened the scoring in the sixth minute with his first goal for Canada in their fourth outing. Kamal Miller, with a long ball from deep Canadian territory, found his CF Montreal team-mate who sped past a defender with a skillful first touch and headed unhindered on goal, beating Bahrain keeper Ebrahim Lutfalla with a high shot.
A Cavallini tap-in goal in the 12th minute after a Jonathan Osorio pass with the eye was flagged for offside.
Bahrain responded against the flow of play by Mahdi Haumaidan in the 14th minute. After Kaye failed to corral a backwards pass, Yusuf hit Waterman and found Haumidan in the box. His quick shot eluded a skidding Johnston and St. Clair, who got a right hand on the ball but couldn’t parry it.
For the camp and game in Bahrain, Herdman relied on the MLS talent along with midfielder Liam Fraser, who plays for KMSK Deinze in Belgium. Eighteen of the 21 players in camp were from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (including Toronto winger Jacob Shaffelburg on loan to Nashville SC).
The TFC and Vancouver players in camp hadn’t seen game action since the Oct. 9 MLS regular-season final. Montreal exited the playoffs on October 23, losing 3-1 to New York City FC in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
For some, the break lasted even longer. Prior to Friday, Osorio had only played 18 minutes since August 20 due to post-concussion syndrome. He earned his 56th cap for Canada on Friday and looked sharp as he played the entire game.
“Amazing,” Osorio said. “It was tough…everyone helped me come back and get to this point. I’m just really happy to be with the guys. They helped me on the pitch.”
The game against Bahrain was also a milestone for Herdman and Johnston.
Herdman marked his 46th international “A” match as the Canadian men’s in charge, putting him second on the all-time list behind Stephen Hart with a record of (31-10-5). Bob Lenarduzzi holds the record at 62.
Johnston played for Canada in his 27th straight game, equaling former captain Bruce Wilson’s record. The 24-year-old from Aurora, Ontario made his debut in the first World Cup qualifier against Bermuda in March 2021 and has been a fixture ever since.
Johnston, who earned his 29th cap on Friday, has not missed a Canada game since a game in Aruba in June 2021.
St Clair, just earning his second cap, started in goal behind a back three of Waterman, Johnston and Miller and a midfield of Richie Laryea, Piette, Kaye and Raheem Edwards, while Osorio and Kone played behind Cavallini.
The Canadian starting XI had a combined 293 caps, led by Piette (65) and Osorio (56).
Fraser, Brault-Guillard, Ayo Akinola, Jayden Nelson, Shaffelburg and Lukas MacNaughton, making his Canadian debut, came on in the second half. Miller, who appeared to favor one leg, came off the field in the 71st minute.
For Akinola, it was Canada’s first appearance since injuring his knee in the Gold Cup against USA in July 2021.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 11, 2022.
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