TORONTO, Ont.,—The Canadian men’s national team played three friendly matches during their most recent camp in January: two wins over Barbados followed by a frustrating loss to Iceland.
The 1-0 defeat left a sour taste in the mouths of fans across Canada; it was a loss that cost the nation valuable points in the FIFA world rankings and seemingly crushed the country’s hopes of earning a more direct route to try and qualify for the 2022 World Cup. However, after the latest release of the world rankings, it appears that the red-and-white are still in the race for the final spot in the “Hex”.
“We are still in the hunt for the Concacaf Hex and we have cut the points gap in half through Concacaf Nations League,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach in a media release. “We are focused on doing our best to pick up points and close the gap on that sixth spot in Concacaf.”
Despite the loss, Canada (7th in Concacaf) actually gained one point on El Salvador (6th in Concacaf) from the previous world rankings that were released back in December, ultimately cutting the 30-point gap that it was back in July 2019 in half.
El Salvador, who Canada are trying to catch, played only one match over the latest window—also a 1-0 loss to Iceland on Jan. 20 that kept the Canadian men in the hunt. They’ve been limiting their friendlies in hopes of maintaining their now-14-point gap over Canada.
Coach Herdman’s side, on the other hand, has been doing the opposite, most recently scheduling two home friendlies against Trinidad & Tobago on March 27 and 31 in an effort to gain as many world ranking points before “the Hex” is determined in June. It is unclear if the Mar. 31 match will be open to the public.
As mentioned, El Salvador possesses the coveted last spot in “the Hex”—the final round of World Cup qualifiers for the Concacaf region.
For brief context, the top three nations in “the Hex” qualify for Qatar, while only one team outside of the “Hex” has a (long) shot at reaching the 2022 tournament.
Should Canada not advance to “the Hex,” it would be forced to compete in a grueling secondary Concacaf qualifying competition between the Concacaf nations ranked 7-35 with the winner then facing the fourth-place finisher from “the Hex” in a two-game series.
The winner of that series would then have to play a home-and-home playoff against a nation from outside Concacaf (either from Asia, South America or Oceania) with a World Cup berth at stake.
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As it stands, El Salvador has just one friendly officially scheduled for the March window, on Mar. 27 against Panama.