Canada will play their first World Cup in 36 years after an astonishing climb up the FIFA ladder since John Herdmann took charge of the team four years ago.
In 2021 alone, it rose from No. 72 to No. 40.
“We’re just getting started,” Herdman said. “Canada is a football country. Let’s fight. You have to believe.”
The Canadians had to sweat on the jersey to qualify, but they did so with great fanfare. Because of their low ranking, they had to go through two preliminary rounds of the CONCACAF qualifiers. They ended up winning in a draw, ahead of Mexico and the United States.
Since then, Canadians have fallen slightly in the world rankings. They played four warm-up matches, won two and lost two. The last time they fell to Uruguay 2-0 in Slovakia at the end of September.
Canada has Kyle Larain of Belgium, who scored 25 goals for the national team, of which six are in the final stage of the qualifiers. He is followed by Jonathan David of French Lille with 22 goals. And Alfonso Davies from Bayern Munich adds 12.
Herdman says Canada can’t be satisfied with just returning to the World Cup after a long absence. You have to win matches.
“No one will give you anything,” Herdman said.
The Canadians do not know if they will be able to count on their captain Atiba Hutchison, who has returned from injury 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 their last World Cup finals in 1986, losing to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union 5-0. He’s the only player on the team born before this latest show. He played 97 matches with the national team.
Canada were also without Jonathan Osorio in the last two friendlies due to a concussion.
The players and the Canadian Football Association have yet to reach an agreement on players’ compensation. This year, the team refused to play a friendly match with Panama due to tensions in the negotiations.
One of the most important topics is the $10 million payment from FIFA for the men’s team to qualify for the World Cup. The men’s and women’s team believe they are entitled to a portion of this money.
Herdmann is the first coach to qualify for the World Cup for both the men’s and women’s teams. She managed the women’s team from 2011 to 2018.
Canada played 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 Ostaccio. “The more we control it, the closer we are to victory. You have to finish plays. Avoid scoring. This is important against very good teams.”
Canada is part of Group F, as it will face Belgium on November 23, Croatia on November 27 and Morocco on December 1.