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Nations League Draw: Canada will meet up with Honduras and Curaçao

With Qatar 2022 on the horizon how will Canada juggle pre-tournament friendlies with Nations League?

(Canada Soccer / Martin Bazyl)

Hot on the heels of Friday’s World Cup draw for Qatar 2022 we now have the 2022-23 Nations League draw in the books. Canada will be in Group C in League A with Honduras and Curaçao in their three team grouping.

We’ve known for nearly two years that due to Qatar 2022 taking place this fall that the league phase of the Nations League tournament will be played in June 2022 and March 2023.

The nations contesting League A in CONCACAF will include the eight incumbents; Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, Canada, Panama, Martinique, and Curaçao. They will be joined by the four debutantes from the previous edition’s League B in El Salvador, Jamaica, Grenada and Suriname to round out the 12 team field. On account of Canada’s third place CONCACAF ranking, it will be one of the four seeded teams in Pot 1 - along with Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States. The teams in Pot 2 will be the other four participants in the recently completed Octagonal, again, based on CONCACAF ranking; Panama, Jamaica, El Salvador and Honduras.

What’s on the line?

Group winners qualify for the Nations League final round as well as an automatic berth in the 2023 Gold Cup. Runners up will maintain their status as League A participants in the next Nations’ League and qualify directly for the Gold Cup. Third place finishers will be entered into the pre-Gold Cup qualification tournament to compete for the the final three spaces, and they will be relegated to League B for the next edition of Nations League.

Quick Scouting Report

Honduras – Canada will be fairly familiar with their one-time nemesis from Central America. Having played Honduras twice in world cup qualifying, there shouldn’t be too many surprises to this match-up. While all four Pot 2 teams present their own unique challenges Canada may be happy to have avoided Panama and Jamaica in the draw. Canada’s last match with Honduras took place in January 2022 when Les Rouges exorcised some demons with a 2-0 win in Tegucigalpa. That victory was courtesy of an early Honduras own goal and sealed by Jonathan David’s exquisite break away effort following Liam Fraser’s perfectly weighted long ball.

Curaçao – Canada’s Pot 3 opponent is a lesser known quantity as Curaçao has only been playing in its present iteration since 2011. Similar to Suriname, Curaçao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands, and similarly can draw upon ex-pat and dual nationals born, raised, and playing in the Netherlands for their national team. Curaçao has not played a lot of international games of late, as the team had to withdraw from last summer’s Gold Cup on account of a Covid outbreak just prior to the tournament. Canada’s only match with Curaçao was a 2-1 victory on 13 June 2017 at Stade Saputo with Canadian goals from Manjrekar James and Anthony Jackson-Hamel.

Herdman’s Dilemma – A Team or B Team?

With Canada just finishing its world cup qualifying campaign and now looking forward with utmost anticipation to participation in its first world cup in 36 years, John Herdman must now decide how to approach Nations League. Ideally, Herdman would like to spend the next eight months lining up friendlies with non-CONCACAF opposition. In a manner, the June Nations’ League games are standing in the way of his plans. Canada only just finished playing 20 games against 11 different countries in the past year in CONCACAF world cup qualifying. What Canada needs is competition from outside the confederation in the lead up to Qatar.

The first two Nations League games will take place in the 2 June to 14 June 2022 window. However, there are four possible actual game dates, which may allow for Herdman to bring an expanded roster or even create two teams to divide between friendlies and Nations League.

The remaining two Nations League games will take place in the March 2023 window, with the finals round to occur in June 2023. The schedule including locations, exact dates and times are yet to be officially released.