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Why Canada could end up being the darling of the 2022 FIFA World Cup

If there’s one nation to keep your eyes on this tournament, it’s Les Rouges.

Sean Pollock/Waking the Red

Canada has waited a very long time for this moment, 36 years to be exact. The country’s spirits for the World Cup are higher than ever because the men’s national team are about to make just their second appearance in the world’s biggest sporting event. In 1986, Canada was seen as a hockey nation — but now, it’s a country that has an unbridled passion for soccer.

Les Rouges were drawn into arguably one of the toughest groups for this World Cup, being put into Group F amongst two strong European nations in Belgium and Croatia, and African side Morocco. Croatia are seen as the favourites to top the group seeing as they made a storybook run to the 2018 World Cup Final, Belgium are no slouches either as their roster is filled with superstars from goalkeepers to strikers. Morocco have some solid individual players, but it is purely a question of whether they can put together a strong collective effort to make some noise.

After being the stereotypical polite Canadian by acknowledging the quality of the other three teams in the group, it’s time to tell you why Canada may end up being the darling of the 2022 World Cup. Fellow contributors from Waking the Red also gave their opinions as to why this team will turn heads at the tournament.

Jeffrey P. Nesker: “I mean, why not? We certainly have the talent to make some noise, and we are riding a wave of good vibes, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Stranger things have happened, and with this World Cup cycle already so different than the usual, who better than a CONCACAF dark horse to make waves on the world stage?”

Jeffrey brought up a good point - a wave of good vibes. Those good vibes began in September 2021 when the third round of CONCACAF qualifiers kicked off. The vibes continued all the way to this past March when Canada ended up topping the group with eight wins, four draws and only two losses - securing them automatic qualification for the World Cup in Qatar.

The main man for the squad was Cyle Larin; the striker who now plays club football with Club Brugge scored six goals in that third round alone, and scored seven in the first two qualifying rounds which gave him 13 altogether. He also became the leading goal-scorer for the men’s program in the process.

Cyle Larin.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)

Andre Schaffner: “The world loves an underdog and a newcomer, especially a competitive one. On all counts Canada fits the bill. Canada has a blend of veterans and youthful players but the face of the team is decidedly its young stars, like Davies, David and Buchanan. Another big plus to add is Canada’s multi-cultural team make-up, where fans world-wide are bound to find a Canadian favourite to identify with.”

Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David.
(Flickr/Canada Soccer)

“What Canada lacks in international experience is off-set by fearlessness and togetherness. If head coach John Herdman can maintain the players’ buy-in to the team culture fostered over the last two years then opponents beware. Moreover, the team has speed to spare and neutrals love to see players like Canada’s young stars burning past opponents.”

The fearlessness that Andre eludes to was seen multiple times in qualifying games, as Canada picked up favourable results in difficult atmospheres like Mexico (1-1 draw), the United States (1-1 draw), and Honduras (2-0 win). With previous teams Canada would hope to simply lose by a respectable scoreline, but this young and energetic squad enter every match with the confidence and belief that they can win. Herdman is the perfect coach for this team, his ambition matches that of the players and he lets the team play with a certain amount of free rein because he knows that they are capable of producing excellent performances.

Canada has multiple game-changers that can impact the outcome of a match with one play, take this stunning Alphonso Davies goal for example.

That goal can be seen as the epitome of the Canada’s work rate - relentless hustle, never giving up on any play.

Anthony Khoury: “There are so many likeable figures on this roster that have worked so hard over the last several years. Alphonso Davies’ story is common knowledge, but the likes of Tajon Buchanan, Stephen Eustáquio, Alistair Johnston, and more have become national heroes with the grit and determination on and off the pitch. Now, the fact they get to showcase themselves on the biggest stage in world football is quite the feat.”

Tajon Buchanan.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)
Stephen Eustáquio.
(Flickr/Canada Soccer)

Corey Brady: “Canada is young, fast, and skilled. While it will be hard to match up against talented squads like Belgium and Croatia, the team’s enthusiasm and athleticism will go a long way in the group stage. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David are already big names in Europe. However, players like Buchanan, Eustáquio, and Johnston have the ability to make a big impact in matches and will turn some heads. If Canada can win against Morocco, draw Croatia, and have a respectable showing against Belgium, there will be a lot of international football eyes on this team.”

Alphonso Davies.
(Tagwa Moyo/DARBY Magazine)
Jonathan David.
(Flickr/Canada Soccer)

Adam Palermo: “Footy fans around the world who don’t know this squad like we do will enjoy seeing Canada’s lesser-known talents go up against the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Luka Modrić, and Achraf Hakimi. Canada will get chances to punish their opponents on the counter with players like Sam Adekugbe, Richie Laryea, and Tajon Buchanan. Neutrals should enjoy watching a disruptive and hardworking team try to cause an upset or two in one of the toughest groups at the World Cup.”

Sam Adekugbe.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)
Richie Laryea.
(Flickr/Canada Soccer)

You keep reading about Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David and rightly so, they are two of Canada’s best players in this generation and the majority of play will be tailored for them to create as many chances as possible. Adekugbe and Laryea are fullbacks that love to get forward in the attack and not only make dangerous passes into the opponent’s defensive zone, but they can easily dribble their way up the flanks and take some shots at goal as well.

We were counting years, then months, then weeks. Now, it’s only a matter of days before 26 Canadians set foot on the biggest stage in world football. Canada are without a doubt a sleeping giant at the World Cup and will be awoken on Wednesday, November 23rd when they play Belgium at Al Rayyan Stadium.