We already knew that the Canadian Men's National team would be getting together in March for a camp in Qatar that would include a friendly against Japan. The first match is set for March 22nd at Khalifa Stadium in Doha. Now it seems that Canada is going to be adding another fairly impressive opponent to their schedule as the Belarus Football Federation confirms that Canada is one of the teams that they will play in March.
On their official site the BFF announced that they will be playing a friendly against Jordan on the 21st and then Canada on the 25th with the games again being in Doha. These matches will be part of their squad's preparations for the 2013 round of UEFA World Cup qualifiers.
Belarus is currently fourth in their World Cup Qualifying group having played four matches and only managed to pick up three points. Their campaign does not resume until June so they are using the March international window to play friendlies to prepare for their game against Finland on June 7th. Their group is certainly a tricky one with Spain, France, and Georgia rounding out the field.
It is not likely that Belarus will make their first World Cup as an independent nation in 2014 but they have done fairly well in the short time that they have had their own football federation. They have also never managed to qualify for a UEFA European Championship but they have been showing improvement in recent cycles, coming close to qualifying for major tournaments on several occasions.
Belarus is at a similar level to Canada in terms of their FIFA ranking as they currently are sitting at 65th while the Canadians slipped eight spots to 72nd in the latest rankings. Similar rankings hardly guarantee a close game when it comes to Canada but at least it gives a sense of the calibre that can be expected from Belarus.
A better indication may come from the last time that the two nations met. On March 29, 2011 the two teams squared off in a friendly in Turkey that saw Canada win a tightly contested game 1-0 thanks to a 58th minute effort from Andre Hainault. The team that Canada fielded that day will likely be similar to the one that faces Belarus this year in that it was made up almost entirely of European based players. Canada was led by the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, Kevin McKenna, Lars Hirschfeld, Will Johnson, Simeon Jackson, and Josh Simpson so it was a fairly strong team.
It will be interesting to see what sort of team Canada fields this time around. The North American camp saw only a few veterans included and a lot of youth being given its first chance with the national team. A similar team could be expected in Europe but with games against Japan and Belarus now on the schedule hopefully they bring a core of veteran players to avoid the potential for lopsided scorelines.