Canada is playing its first World Cup in 36 years after rocketing up the FIFA ladder since John Herdman took over the team four years ago.
It wasn’t until 2021 that it rose from 72nd to 40th place.
“We’re just getting started,” Herdman said. “Canada is a football country. Let’s fight. You must believe.”
The Canadians had to work really hard to qualify, but they did it with great fanfare. Due to their low ranking, they had to draw two preliminary rounds of the CONCACAF qualification. And in the end they won the tie, ahead of Mexico and the United States.
Since then, the Canadians have dropped somewhat in the ranking. They played four warm-up games, winning two and losing two. In the most recent, they lost 2-0 to Uruguay in Slovakia at the end of September.
Canada has Cyle Larin, from Bruges in Belgium and author of 25 goals for the national team, including six in the final stages of qualifications. Jonathan David from Lille, France, follows him with 22 goals. And star winger Alphonso Davies, from Bayern Munich, has 12.
Herdman says Canada cannot settle for returning to the World Cup after a long absence. You have to win games.
“No one is going to give you anything. You have to earn it,” Herdman said.
The Canadians do not know if they can count on their captain Atiba Hutchison, who returns injured and did not participate in the friendlies in September.
Hutchison resumed training with Turkish club Besiktas in early October. He was three years old when Canada played its last World Cup, in 1986, losing to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union by a combined score of 5-0. He is the only player on the team born before that last presentation. Add 97 meetings to the selection.
Canada was also without Johnathan Osorio in the last two friendlies due to a concussion.
The players and the Canadian Football Association have not yet reached an agreement on the compensation of the players. This year, the team refused to play a friendly with Panama due to tensions in the negotiations.
One of the hottest topics is a $10 million payment FIFA made to the men’s team for qualification for the World Cup. The men’s and women’s teams believe that part of that money belongs to them.
Herdman is the first coach to qualify both the men’s and women’s teams for a World Cup. She led the women’s team from 2011 to 2018.
Canada has two more friendlies before the World Cup, against Bahrain on November 11 and Japan on November 17.
“We have to keep looking for ways to control the game,” said midfielder Stephen Eustáquio. “The more we control it, the closer we will be to victory. You have to finish the plays. Avoid being scored. That is important against very good teams”.
Canada is in Group F, in which they will play Belgium on November 23, Croatia on November 27 and Morocco on December 1.