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Breaking down Canada’s impressive World Cup Qualifying squad

Almost all the big boys are there, which given the pandemic is impressive.

Haiti v Canada: Quarterfinals - 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Just two days before they open 2022 World Cup qualifying, Canada released their roster for the opening two fixtures. The group, which clearly took the CSA and John Herdman a lot of work ended up being incredibly impressive given all the hoops the national team would have had to go through to get these players into camp.

Alphonso Davies’ inclusion headlines the group, which includes the return of Besiktas duo Cyle Larin and Atiba Hutchinson. The team also features debutant Theo Corbean of Wolves academy as well as fellow 18-year-old Toronto FC player Jayden Nelson.

Canada opens up qualifiers on Thursday against Bermuda and Sunday versus the Cayman Islands. Both of these matches will be played in Florida and will be available to watch on OneSoccer.

Here is a full breakdown of the squad:

The Goalkeepers: Dayne St. Clair, Max Crepeau, Milan Borjan

The one position where Canada is at full strength is between the sticks. With another Serbian Superliga title soon to be under his belt as well as Europe League experience including a tight loss to AC Milan, Borjan remains Canada’s starting keeper.

Behind him, Max Crepeau is coming off an injury-shortened season where he maybe didn’t take the step forward many were hoping, but still remains the number two. Dayne St. Clair, on the other hand, was sensational for Minnesota United and looks at the moment to be the national team’s goalie of the future.

If all goes to plan, St. Clair could potentially make his debut in this senior national team camp given the ranking of Canada’s opposition.

Vitoria de Setubal v SC Braga - Portuguese League Cup Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

The Defenders: Sam Adekugbe, Ricardo Ferreira, Cristian Gutierrez, Alistair Johnston, Richie Laryea, Kamal Miller, Frank Sturing, Steven Vitoria, Joel Waterman

Doneil Henry’s absence due to injury, and Derek Cornelius being with the Olympic team, hurts the depth of this team a little bit at centreback. However, Ricardo Ferreira’s first national team call-up coupled with mainstays Steven Vitoria and Kamal Miller should give the team more than enough solidity. Frank Sturing’s senior callup is a bit of surprise considering many thought he would be with the Olympic squad, but he clearly impressed in January camp.

At fullback, Canada looks as solid as it has been in years between Richie Laryea, Cristian Gutierrez, Sam Adekugbe and Alistair Johnston. Johnston, in particular, was consistently praised by John Herdman for his debut season with Nashville SC and might feature heavily as a result.

The Midfielders: Theo Corbeanu, Stephen Eustaquio, Atiba Hutchinson, Sam Piette, David Wotherspoon, Mark-Anthony Kaye

Even without regular starters Jonathan Osorio (minor injury) and Scott Arfield (returning from injury) this is the best midfield group Canada has had in years. The return of Atiba Hutchinson is both surprising and incredibly welcome considering the excellent season he is enjoying with Beskitas at 38 (!) years of age.

Between Stephen Eustaquio, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Sam Piette, Canada have a great mix of midfielders who are both solid defensively and good at progressing the ball forward to the team’s incredibly talented attack.

David Wotherspoon’s inclusion is a nice bonus as he has had a strong season with St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League, including winning the Scottish League Cup. Given he is playing week in and week out right now, this probably gives him the edge over players like Liam Fraser and Russel Teibert.

Rounding out the group is Theo Corbeanu. The 18-year-old Wolves academy prospect missed out on January camp due to the Wolves first team needing him because of injuries. He remains one of the most exciting prospects in the Canadian system and this is a good chance to get him integrated with a group he will be playing with for many years to come.

Besiktas JK v Denizlispor - Super Lig Photo by Ahmad Mora/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The Attackers: Lucas Cavallini, Alphonso Davies, Junior Hoilett, Cyle Larin, Jayden Nelson, Liam Millar

As always, the attack is the most exciting part of this group and the absence of Jonathan David due to pandemic restrictions doesn’t change that fact.

The return of Cyle Larin is a major positive given the season he is having with Beskitas. Larin’s 18 goals in all competitions have helped his side to the Turkish Cup final as well as the top spot in the Super Lig.

Between Alphonso Davies, Lucas Cavallini and Junior Hoilett this group contains many of Canada’s most dangerous attackers. Many will also be happy to see Davies listed in this forward group, given it hasn’t always worked out in the past when he played as a fullback with the national team.