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Preview: Canada heads to Panama for World Cup Qualifying finale

With a World Cup berth already clinched, Les Rouges still have something to play for in Panama City.

Canadian players celebrate after Junior Hoilett’s goal against Jamaica at BMO Field.
Photo by Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

Canada will round out their World Cup qualifying campaign when they face Panama away on Wednesday.

The Canadian men travel to Panama coming off the back of a euphoric 4-0 victory at home over Jamaica.

If you haven’t heard already, that win at BMO Field booked Canada a ticket to Qatar.

The job is finally done. Canada are going to the World Cup.

The boys in red and white (and sometimes black) should be proud of their accomplishments so far. With their main goal achieved, Canada can play with real joy and freedom in Panama City.

Canada’s goalkeeper and vice-captain Milan Borjan, pumps his fists postgame after qualifying for the World Cup.
Photo by Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

With that being said, there is still more to play for as the curtain closes on CONCACAF qualifying.

First of all... bragging rights.

In and of itself, finishing on top of the Octagonal provides no tangible benefit to Canada.

What it does however, is send a clear message to Canada’s nearest and dearest rivals.

Finishing above the United States and Mexico would be a statement of intent from Les Rouges. Sitting atop the standings come the end of qualifying would show the world that Canada is currently the side to beat in the region, and that this is the beginning of a new era for the men’s national program

Though Canada’s 11 match unbeaten run ended in San Jose, that doesn’t mean they can’t still finish off qualifying in style.

Moreover, they need just a point to finish top of the table. A loss could suffice, but that would depend on the results from the United States and Mexico games.

In addition to claiming top spot in the standings, Canada is also competing for something a little more material...the chance of landing into Pot 3 for the upcoming World Cup draw.

It is up for debate just how much of a benefit this would provide (I’ll leave that for the comments section), but what is known for sure is that being in Pot 3 would allow Les Rouges to avoid Morocco, Poland, Serbia, Iran, South Korea, and Japan in the group stage draw.

Maybe the psychological edge of not having the label of the “worst team in the group,” could be a factor? Probably not. Either way, the Canadian men have shown that they can get results when they are the underdog.

It’s somewhat absurd that this is even up for debate. A few months ago, Canadian supporters would have jumped at the chance to just be at the World Cup. Now Canadians are arguing over whether they would prefer their team to be in Pot 3 or Pot 4.

What a time.

Given that there is something meaningful to play for, John Herdman might not tinker with his starting eleven as much as he would have maybe liked to.

With that being said, Canada’s head coach has been willing to shuffle his squad around in the past, and might use this final fixture to get a feel for some rotation players.

Perhaps stalwarts of the national team, Milan Borjan and skipper Atiba Hutchinson, will be given a well-deserved rest.

For Los Canaleros, their home match on Wednesday is for nothing but pride.

With their 5-1 loss in Orlando on Sunday, and Costa Rica’s win in El Salvador, Panama are now out of contention for the 2022 World Cup.

It’s been an up and down final round of qualification for Thomas Christiansen’s side. His squad has beaten the United States and drawn Mexico, but has also lost to El Salvador, and drawn with Honduras. In the end, it has not been enough for Panama to earn themselves an intercontinental play-off berth.

With nothing to play for, Christiansen could also shuffle around his starting lineup and give some younger players the chance to impress. No matter who he selects to start, he will want his team to bow out with their heads held high. He will expect a high-intensity match in front of the home crowd.

Game notes

  • Canada has not drawn against any side more than they have against Panama. They have six draws in 11 matches (4-1-6)
  • If Milan Borjan plays, he would enter the top ten for appearances made for the CANMNT with 64, surpassing Kevin McKenna and Nick Dasovic

Predicted lineups

Panama: Mejia; Gutierrez, Andrade, Escobar, Blackman; Carrasquilla, Martinez; Rodriguez, Barcenas, Medina; Blackburn

Canada: Crépeau; Adekugbe, Kennedy, Henry, Johnston; Millar, Fraser, Eustaquio, Buchanan; David, Cavallini

Match details

Opponent: Panama

Kick-off time: 9:05 pm EST

Watch: Sportsnet, OneSoccer, RDS

Stadium: Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama