Over the course of the last year, the Canadian men’s national team has turned heads not only in CONCACAF, but across the globe too.
Since kicking off their qualifying campaign against Bermuda back in March 2021, Les Rouges have played a total of 20 matches, winning 14, drawing four and losing two. Just incredible.
In what has been a lengthy journey to World Cup qualification, John Herdman’s squad has varied from the first round to the Octagonal, especially since his side has played more games than any other previous CANMNT qualifying campaign.
Moreover, a host of names have been brought into the national team fold during qualifying, and while some have failed to hold down their place in the squad, it has been quite special to see so many players from several different clubs and leagues represent their country during such an exciting time for soccer in Canada.
So, let’s take a look back at who featured for the CANMNT during their momentous 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying run.
Milan Borjan - He’s Canada’s first choice for a reason. In addition to his leadership on and off the pitch, Borjan made a plethora of stunning saves that kept certain results in Canada’s favour. The Red Star Belgrade stopper started 14 of his country’s 20 qualifiers, keeping nine clean sheets and conceding only five goals.
Maxime Crépeau - LAFC’s new signing may be second choice to Borjan, but when called upon, the Greenfield Park native has always delivered. Crépeau caught the eyes of many at the 2021 Gold Cup, where he played every game during Canada’s run to the semi-finals. In World Cup qualifying, the former Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper featured 5 times, with three of those appearances coming during the October window.
Dayne St. Clair - St. Clair’s form for Minnesota United deservedly earned him a recall to the national team in March. The Pickering native played one game for Les Rouges during their qualifying campaign, starting and keeping a clean sheet in the 7-0 thumping of Aruba in the first round.
Sam Adekugbe - There’s no denying that Adekugbe has been one of Canada’s most consistent players during qualifying. The left-back played in all but one of Les Rouges’ fixtures, and started and played the full 90 in each of his last seven. When talking about Adekugbe, it’s required to mention both the celebration in Edmonton, and that sensational finish against the USA in Hamilton, just FYI.
Zachary Brault-Guillard - He’s got a World Cup qualifying goal to his name, which he bagged against Aruba in the first round, yet the CF Montréal defender has only played a total of 63 minutes since March 2021. He was not included in John Herdman’s latest 25-man squad, but could be brought into the fold should any right-back in the group sustain an injury.
Derek Cornelius - Despite only featuring in one match, the 24-year-old has been a regular call-up since the October window. His lone appearance came against Jamaica in matchday five of the Octagonal, where he helped his side keep a clean sheet in the scrappy 0-0 away draw.
Ricardo Ferreira - A free agent to this day, Ferreira did play for the CANMNT during the first round of qualifying after announcing a change of national associations in February 2021. His one appearance for Les Rouges was in the 11-0 drubbing of the Cayman Islands, where he started and played the full match.
Doneil Henry - The tenacious centre-back has also been a regular in the CANMNT squad, featuring sporadically over the course of the Octagonal. He’s made a total of eight appearances during qualifying, and even captained Les Rouges during the 0-0 draw with Jamaica.
Alistair Johnston - It is very safe to say that Alistair Johnston’s stock has skyrocketed during Canada’s qualifying campaign. The Vancouver native has cemented himself as one of the squad’s most valuable players, and was been quite the rock at the back in the 19 qualifiers he played in since the start of the first round. Johnston also has a goal to his name, which he scored against the Cayman Islands.
Scott Kennedy - Like Johnston, Kennedy has been absolutely solid when on the pitch for Canada. He was troubled by injury at the end of 2021, but it’s worth noting that his debut for the national team came in the 4-0 win over Suriname. In just eight total appearances for Les Rouges, Kennedy has highlighted exactly why he deserves a regular place in the squad.
Kamal Miller - With eight starts to his name, Miller’s dogged displays at the back have been one of the key reasons why this Canada side has had so much success in the space of a year. We also can’t forget the fact that he got the assist for Adekugbe’s goal against the USA, what a clearance that ended up being.
Richie Laryea - Arguably the unsung hero from this qualifying campaign, Laryea’s performances for Canada played a vital role in him earning a move to Europe with EFL Championship side Nottingham Forest. With one goal and two assists during qualifying, the former Toronto FC star continues to showcase just how crucial he is to the men’s national team program.
Frank Sturing - Sturing was only involved during the first round, where he had the start against both the Cayman Islands and Aruba, his only two appearances for the CANMNT to date. Like various others, he also found the back of the net in the 11-0 thrashing of the Cayman Islands. Sturing, who plays for SV Horn in the Austrian second tier, was not called up for any of the windows during the Octagonal.
Steven Vitória - Even at 35 years of age, Vitória has been a key ingredient to Canada’s recipe for success during qualifying. He’s started 11 of Les Rouges’ 20 games and went the full 90 in all of them. As one of the veteran leaders in the team, his expertise and experience at the back have truly complimented the youthful energy of Johnston, Miller and Kennedy.
Stephen Eustáquio - The midfield maestro never ceases to amaze when he’s on the ball. Eustáquio’s composure and discipline has helped take his game to a new level, as seen by him earning a move to FC Porto. He featured in 17 of Canada’s 20 qualifiers thus far, with two of those absences having been due to COVID-19. The rise of Stephen Eustáquio will most definitely continue over the next several years.
Liam Fraser - When CANMNT supporters think of Liam Fraser, the first thing on their minds has surely got to be that delicious ball he played to Jonathan David against Honduras in matchday 11 of the Octagonal. Now playing in the Belgian second division, Fraser continues to prove his worth as one of the most persistent midfielders that John Herdman has at his disposal.
Atiba Hutchinson - To see Hutchinson play at a FIFA World Cup will be quite the tearjerker for those who have followed him and the national team ever since he debuted back in January 2003. Canada’s captain seems to age like fine wine, as seen by him continuing to boss the midfield when on the pitch. With his 100th cap for the national team looming, what a moment it would be if it came during the tournament in Qatar.
Mark-Anthony Kaye - Another Mr. Consistent within the group, MAK has been a force to be reckoned with in the heart of Canada’s midfield. He bagged a brace against the Cayman Islands and played in all but five of Canada’s qualifiers so far. It would not be a surprise if MAK earned himself a move to Europe prior to or after the World Cup.
Ismaël Koné - Remember the name. The youngster only made his professional debut in February 2022 and one month later, was brought off the bench by Herdman during Canada’s 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica. Having already broken into both the CF Montréal first team and the CANMNT squad in the space of just one month, the future is oh so bright for the Ivorian-born starlet.
Jonathan Osorio - Oso at the Azetca. Need we say more? That goal to equalize at one of the most iconic venues in the world undeniably goes down as one of the most memorable moments from this qualifying campaign. TFC’s all-time appearance leader has been with the national team since 2013 and for him to be playing a vital role in Canada’s journey to Qatar is just beautiful to see.
Samuel Piette - Piette has played 60+ games for Les Rouges and serves as one of the side’s experienced leaders, an attribute that has been significant for the development of Canada’s young midfield core. The 27-year-old has played eight times during qualifying, but remains an influential figure in the dressing room given his many years with the national team.
David Wotherspoon - The St. Johnstone midfielder featured prominently in the first round and got in on the goalscoring act against the Cayman Islands. Yet, after five qualifying appearances before the Octagonal, Wotherspoon only featured three times since. Sadly, an ACL injury in December 2021 hampered any potential opportunity for Wotherspoon to return for any of the remaining qualifying fixtures.
Charles-Andreas Brym - Still just 23 and making a name for himself at FC Eindhoven, Brym was a part of the CANMNT squad during the October window. The youngster was brought on as a substitute in each of Canada’s three games against Mexico, Jamaica and Panama respectively, but has since not seen any action with the national team.
Tajon Buchanan - Since the beginning of qualifying, arguably no player has had as meteoric of a rise as Buchanan. He marked his CANMNT debut against Aruba in the first round of qualifying with two assists, and has not looked back. Buchanan played in all but one qualifier since making his debut against Aruba, showing just how important he is to this group. The 23-year-old has taken the world by storm, and there’s no denying he’s destined for great things in the near future with both club and country.
Lucas Cavallini - Most of Cavallini’s success in 2022 World Cup qualifying came during the first round, where he scored a hat-trick as a substitute against the Cayman Islands, and a brace in the 7-0 win over Aruba. Having struggled with form and injuries in the latter parts of 2021, Cavallini only made five appearances during the Octagonal. The Whitecaps forward has a point to prove as fans know how dangerous Cavallini is when in form.
Theo Corbeanu - Despite having not been selected for any of the windows during the Octagonal, Corbeanu’s future with the CANMNT has never been in doubt. Still young and finding his footing in England, the starlet did feature in Les Rouges first three qualifiers during the first round. The Wolves loanee found the back of the net against Bermuda in matchday one of the first round and will continue to push at the club level in order to earn a recall to Herdman’s side
Jonathan David - A man who needs no introduction, David’s prolific form in front of goal has established himself as the most dangerous No. 9 in CONCACAF. Since playing his first qualifier against Aruba in the first round, David has featured in 18 of Canada’s 20 qualifiers, scoring nine goals. With a move to one of Europe’s top clubs firmly on the cards, 2022 is already looking set to be a momentous year for David.
Alphonso Davies - The talisman himself. The face of the sport in Canada. Davies’ sublime goal against Panama was arguably the moment where an entire nation believed that Qatar was imminent. With five goals and eight assists in 13 qualifiers, Phonzy has displayed not only why he’s one of the region’s best, but also one of the world’s best. In spite of his absence from the squad due to his recovery from myocarditis, Davies played a starring role in helping turn a nation’s dream into a reality.
Junior Hoilett - As he closes in on the 50-cap milestone, fan favourite Hoilett has remained a staple in the CANMNT squad for several years. He may have been troubled by injuries during the Octagonal, but the Reading forward has still managed to play in 13 qualifiers. With three goals to his name too, Hoilett, like all his compatriots, is ready to continue writing Canadian soccer history in 2022 and beyond.
Cyle Larin - Whether it be the brace against Mexico, the opening goal against the USA, or even the hat-trick against Bermuda in Canada’s first qualifier, Larin has come up trumps with so many significant moments during Les Rouges’ journey to the World Cup. In addition to becoming the CANMNT’s all-time top scoring player, Larin’s rejuvenation on the international stage has been quite inspiring to witness.
Liam Millar - That long-awaited first goal for the national team can’t be far away now, but nonetheless, Millar can always be relied on to provide some flair down the flank. The FC Basel man has played four times during the Octagonal and started in each of his three appearances. With nine goals for his club this season, Millar will soon be hoping to replicate that form with his country.
Jacob Shaffelburg - Following a very bright end to the 2021 MLS season with TFC, Shaffelburg’s form earned him a call-up to Herdman’s squad for the October window. The 22-year-old made two cameo appearances against Jamaica and Panama, but has not featured since. If he is to earn a recall, he’ll ideally need another resurgence in form at the club level.
Iké Ugbo - The former Chelsea man’s commitment to the CANMNT excited many, yet since then, Ugbo has only played a total of 26 minutes for the national team. His loan move to Troyes was the best choice for him, and after making a bright start to life in Ligue 1, it won’t be long before Herdman has him playing some significant minutes in matches to come.
Players who were in a matchday squad but did not feature