TORONTO, Canada—As Waking the Red’s Mitchell Tierney reported last week, the Canadian men’s national team will indeed be returning to action in January as part of a preparatory camp ahead of FIFA World Cup™ Qualifiers, which are scheduled to begin in March 2021.
The January camp, which won’t be cap-tying, will feature two training scrimmages as well as a Canada intra-squad scrimmage in Bradenton, FL, USA at the IMG Center, meaning it doesn’t sound like there will be games played against another nation. There hasn’t been a date confirmed for the January 2021 camp, but Waking the Red did report last week that Canada Soccer was eyeing potential dates between January 9 and 24.
“As a step towards FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, the January camp provides our Men’s National Team with an opportunity to re-immerse the group both tactically and culturally towards competitive matches in March,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach in a press release. “As this is the first time we will be on the pitch with some players in over a year, it will be important to focus on performances as we build towards the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”
Canada revealed its roster for the upcoming camp, and to perhaps much surprise, it includes Toronto FC youngster Ayo Akinola, the Brampton-raised, Michigan-born striker. Akinola recently represented the U.S. men’s national team in a non-cap-tying camp, where he scored a goal on his debut before taking a knee in protest against racial injustice.
The camp also includes Arsenal FC academy product Marcelo Flores, who like Akinola, has yet to be cap tied. He is still eligible to represent either Mexico or Canada, making this January camp that much more important for Herdman and co.
This will be a very big camp for John Herdman. First time he has had his group in person in a year. Preparation for critical matches coming up in the new year and a chance to impress a couple of high profile dual nationals. Exciting times for #CanMNT— Mitchell Tierney (@mitchelltierney) December 23, 2020
Including Akinola, in total, seven Toronto FC players were named to the camp: Richie Laryea, Jonathan Osorio, Liam Fraser, Noble Okello, Jayden Nelson, and first-time call-up Ralph Priso.
With the coming-together happening in January—in the middle of many European seasons—the list of names chosen were limited to those (for the most part) within North America. However, Canada did manage to pry Theo Corbeanu from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Flores from Arsenal FC, Belal Halbouni of SV Werder Bremen, and Frank Sturing of FC Den Bosch.
With the 2021 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship around the corner, there are 18 players born 1997 or later who were named to the camp, thus also making them eligible for the upcoming U-23 competition.
The full Canada roster for their upcoming January camp can be found below.
Looking past the January camp and to Concacaf Round One in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Canada will host Bermuda at home on Thursday 25 March and then travel away to face Cayman Islands on Sunday 28 March. In the next window, Canada will travel to Aruba to play on Saturday 5 June and then return home to host Suriname on Tuesday 8 June. Details including match times and locations will be announced at a later date.