Getting at least a point on the road and taking all three points at home is the prominent strategy for nations vying for World Cup qualification in a gruelling Octagon format. With two home matches against first place Mexico and fifth place Costa Rica, this is a prime opportunity for Canada to strengthen its World Cup qualification hopes by gaining ground on the table leaders and widening the gap on countries currently below them in the table.
Below is the squad that will be available for selection ahead of the two pivotal matches:
It’s great to see that central figures in the Canadian Men’s National Team (CMNT) in Milan Borjan and Atiba Hutchinson are healthy and available again after missing out due to illness and injury during the last International break. After announcing his intention to represent Canada just yesterday, Ike Ugbo has also been selected to the senior team for the first time ever and is hopeful of making his debut over these next two games.
Junior Hoilett, Scott Kennedy and Jacob Shaffelburg are notable absentees from the latest squad who will all miss out due to injury, while Charles-Andreas Brym, Liam Fraser and Zachary Brault-Guillard were replaced from the October CanMNT squad in favour of other options. Scott Arfield continues to miss out, while younger CanMNT hopefuls in Theo Corbeanu, Harry Paton, Frank Sturing, Daniel Jebbison etc. will continue to try and improve their performances at the club level to crack what is increasingly becoming a more difficult team to be selected for.
With two games in four days beginning Nov. 12 against Costa Rica at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta we could see a decent amount of squad rotation. Herdman will have plenty of attacking options at his disposal and the tactical versatility.
“These home matches present different challenges for which we will need to be ready, but as usual it is one match at a time and with a full house at Commonwealth Stadium we will be pushing for maximum points,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach in a press release.
Cyle Larin, Ike Ugbo, Jonathan David and Lucas Cavallini are all natural strikers and can each play on the wing if required, but the inclusion of four strikers signals that playing two up top could be a possibility especially as Canada will look to capitalize on its home field advantage and score early against Costa Rica. Building an early lead against Costa Rica will be crucially important to rest players as much as possible ahead of its match against Mexico less than four days later.
“The minimum goal at the end of every window is to finish in the top-three, but these games give us the chance to create separation between us and Costa Rica and the potential of closing the gap on the group leaders Mexico,” added Herdman. “There’s so much to play for, but with our home crowds behind us anything is possible.”
Of note, Stephen Eustaquio, Samuel Adekugbe, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Samuel Piette are all on one yellow card and a second one would see them receive a one-match ban due to the yellow card accumulation rule. Eustaquio will need to be very disciplined if he’s to be available for both matches, which will likely impact his minutes in at least the first match vs. Costa Rica.
“We play for Canada, and it is the fans for whom we are doing this, for those who are as passionate about this sport and country as us” said Herdman. “We want to take this country and our fans to a FIFA World Cup, that is our mission.”