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Fifa

Canadian sports fans are, unfortunately, not unaccustomed to sporting droughts, a fact that hockey fans will attest to. But the 36-year wait for a FIFA World Cup appearance for the men’s national team has been a particularly tough one. Forget the Super Bowl or even the Olympics – it is the world’s biggest sporting event. And being part of it is an incredible experience for fans from all 32 nations. So qualifying for the first time since 1986 should be celebrated by all sports fans in the country.

But, let’s face it: Canada is not Brazil. It is not a soccer nation. While that should be caveated with the fact the current set-up under John Herdman is the most talented Canadian men’s squad in generations, expectations should be tempered. According to the latest odds from online betting platforms, Canada is priced anywhere between 200/1 to 500/1 to win the World Cup. It’s a long shot wrapped in a miracle, and it’s not going to happen.

Herdman will be building for 2026

And yet, we might ask what would constitute success for Canada at the World Cup? The question is all the more pertinent when you consider that there is a concerted effort to grow the game of soccer in the country. Success encourages participation, and the more young people take up soccer, the more beneficial it is for future success. Moreover, we should not forget that Canada will be co-hosting the 2026 World Cup alongside Mexico and the United States. This is a young squad, and many players will benefit from the experience of playing on the grandest stage before facing a different kind of pressure as a host nation in 2026.

Nonetheless, for our money, getting to the knockout stages should be John Herdman’s goal. Is it doable? Yes. Will it be difficult? Very. The draw for the group stage could have been a lot kinder to Canada. Belgium represents the most formidable opponent in the group, but Croatia (beaten finalists in 2018) and Morocco will also be tough opponents. On paper, Canada is regarded as the least likely team to qualify from Group F (finishing in the top two positions) and reaching the Last 16 of the tournament.

Canada’s Group F Fixtures:

  1. Belgium, November 23rd
  2. Croatia, November 27th
  3. Morocco, December 1st

Arguably, what Canada needs is something to shoot for when the team enters the final game against Morocco, which looks to be the most winnable fixture. Even a draw against either Belgium or Croatia would give the team enough hope to get out of the group on four points should Morocco be defeated. The fear for Herdman, however, will be losing the two opening fixtures and being put in a mathematically impossible situation to qualify. Indeed, there is a possible scenario where both Belgium and Croatia – the two strongest teams – will have already qualified for the knockout rounds, rendering the Morocco vs. Canada game (almost) meaningless.

Four points could see Canada qualify

But if things do go Canada’s way – four points (a win and a draw) is normally enough to qualify) – then anything can happen. As we said, nobody expects Canada’s players to return home with the iconic Jules Rimet trophy, but World Cup history is littered with examples of ‘smaller’ soccer nations – Ireland (1990), Senegal (2002), Costa Rica (2014) – going deep into the tournament and scalping the heavyweights along the way. So, who knows what the Canadians can achieve when given the chance?

Fifa-soccer-Canada

As we said, this tournament is important for both the present and future of Canadian soccer. 2022 and 2026 should be linked in the minds of the soccer authorities in the country. It gives the current squad something to build on for the 2026 event, and it gives them a chance to inspire a new generation of boys and girls to start playing soccer. It all gets underway in a matter of weeks, and it should be celebrated and enjoyed after a wait of over three decades.


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