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Canada to face Bahrain in World Cup tune-up game

The friendly will serve multiple purposes for John Herdman in the lead-up to Qatar 2022.

Tajon Buchanan and Cyle Larin
Martin Bazyl / Canada Soccer

Canada Soccer lined up another pre-World Cup friendly with the announcement of a match with Bahrain for November 11th, 2022 at Al-Khalifa Stadium in Manama, Bahrain. The match will be held six days ahead of Canada’s final pre-tournament tune-up against Japan on November 17th, and just two days before John Herdman hands in his final roster to FIFA on November 13th.

Canada has never played an international match with Bahrain. Ranked 85th in the FIFA rankings, Bahrain is not anticipated to provide a stern tactical test for the 41st ranked Canadians. The overwhelming majority of its team plays in the Bahrain domestic league. For reference, fellow Octagonal adversary Panama played Bahrain in a September 27th friendly in Bahrain and defeated the hosts 2-0. However, there are several benefits to scheduling this game for Herdman and his squad.

In a statement released with the news of the match, John Herdman stated,

“Bahrain have graciously agreed to host us, which provides the team with an opportunity to both acclimate to the Middle Eastern conditions and to gain important minutes at an international intensity for a number of players before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final roster selection.”

With key players for Les Rouges, such as captain Atiba Hutchinson, Jonathan Osorio, and David Wotherspoon, fighting the calendar to show they have fully recovered from serious injuries this game may be their last opportunity to demonstrate their match fitness ahead of the final roster submission just two days later.

For the non-playoff MLS player contingent, such as Richie Laryea, Lucas Cavallini, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Doneil Henry, and Dayne St. Clair, the match with Bahrain will serve as a boon to providing competitive game action that many may not have experienced for several weeks.

Playing the match in Bahrain, next door to Qatar, provides Canada with another early opportunity to get acclimated to the region twelve days ahead of their World Cup opening match with Belgium on November 23rd, 2022. Canada’s last tune-up against Japan is also to be played in the Gulf region in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

But, one must consider that a significant concession to holding the tournament in mid-season for the majority of European leagues was that the usual two week lead up to the opening match was reduced to just one week.

In light of this, the scheduled date for the Bahrain match does raise the question of who of Canada’s usual squad will be available to play the match, given most European professional leagues do not break for the World Cup until the weekend of November 12 and 13, 2022. It is doubtful that any of the European based core of the team, recovering from injury or not, will be available for this match.

This raises the prospect that the roster for Canada’s penultimate tune-up game could be filled out with MLS players on the periphery of the core, MLS NEXT Pro players, and even some standout Canadian Premier League players, who’s season concludes with Championship Day on October 29th, 2022.

The game is expected to be carried live on streaming service OneSoccer, although this has yet to be confirmed as of writing.