The wait is over for Canadian soccer fans as their men’s national team is set to begin their Octagonal campaign on the road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
After cruising through the first round and dispatching Haiti in the two-legged second round affair, John Herdman’s men find themselves 14 games away from potentially booking their ticket to Qatar next November.
To kick off this exciting campaign, Canada hosts one of their possible close competitors in the Octagon, Honduras. The match is scheduled for 8:05 pm EST at BMO Field, with the game available to stream on both OneSoccer and Sportsnet.
It’s safe to say that Canada has already had a year to remember. Les Rouges have won all six of their World Cup Qualifying games in 2021 and made an inspiring run to the Gold Cup semi-finals where they were heartbreakingly defeated by Mexico in extra-time.
With nine wins out of 11 and 42 goals scored, the excitement around this Canada team is on the verge of reaching boiling point, and another step towards that could be taken on Thursday against Honduras.
As one of the top five ranked CONCACAF nations at the time, Honduras earned a bye into the third round and have thus yet to play a WCQ game. Los Catrachos have endured a tough year so far as they’ve recorded just two wins in nine matches. Following a disappointing quarter-final exit in the Gold Cup, a daunting trip to BMO Field could not have come at a worse time for Maynor Figueroa and co.
Ahead of Canada’s three matches this month, Herdman named what many consider to be the strongest squad list ever. Both Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David return to the fold after not appearing in the Gold Cup, and fans have also celebrated the welcome return of Atiba Hutchinson, who last played for Les Rouges in the 5-1 win over Bermuda back in March of this year.
The Beşiktaş midfielder is edging ever-closer to becoming Canada’s most capped male player as he is five matches away from passing Julian de Guzman and his 89 national team appearances.
Gold Cup standouts Tajon Buchanan and Stephen Eustáquio are also a part of the 23-man group, as well as several players from Canada’s three MLS clubs, including Richie Laryea, Kamal Miller and Lucas Cavallini.
For Honduras, CF Montreal striker Romell Quioto is their one to watch after scoring three goals in three games at the Gold Cup. He is also the top scoring Honduran in their 26-man squad with 11 goals in 50 caps for the national team.
Given Canada’s free-scoring form in 2021, Les Rouges’ attacking core will surely look to put a goal or two (or three) past a Honduras defence that has kept just two shutouts in their last 11 games.
A clean sheet was kept in their last meeting with Canada though as that game (a friendly in 2017) finished goalless.
In 25 total encounters with Honduras since 1980, Canada has won seven of them. Their last victory came in November 2015 thanks to a lone goal from Cyle Larin, which steered Les Rouges to a 1-0 win during qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Thursday’s visitors have won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five matches against Canada, but given their recent form, Honduras were leapfrogged by Herdman’s men in the latest FIFA World Rankings update. Les Rouges now sit four places higher than their upcoming opponent and have also taken Los Catrachos’ spot as one of CONCACAF’s top five ranked national sides.
After almost two years without a Canada men’s soccer game on home soil, a sea of red and white (and maybe some black if you bought the new third kit) will flood BMO Field once again as the CanMNT embarks on the final stretch of their quest to Qatar.
CANADA: Borjan; Johnston, Vitoria, Miller; Laryea, Eustaquio, Hutchinson, Buchanan; Hoilett, David, Davies
HONDURAS: L. Lopez; D. Acosta, Najar, Figueroa, Leveron; Flores, B. Acosta, Rodriguez, A. Lopez; Quioto, Lozano