The Canadian Men’s National Team got even closer to qualifying for their second World Cup berth in their history and their first since 1986 with a dominant 2-1 win over Mexico Nov. 16.
This was their first win against Mexico since a wild Gold Cup quarterfinal win in 2000.
Forward Cyle Larin scored both goals for Canada against Mexico and the Canadians were stout defensively all night long against a potent Mexican attack.
With the huge win over Mexico on a chilly, fall evening in Edmonton, Canada leaped to first place in the CONCACAF table with a record of 4-4-0, good enough for 16 points. They are the only undefeated team left in the group and are ahead of the United States (15 points) and Mexico (14 points).
In their first eight qualifying matches, they’ve scored 13 goals and conceded only five. This has come against numerous quality teams, which makes it even more impressive. Canada has scored the most goals among any country at the international level in 2021 with 53 in 18 games.
With six matches left to be played, many Canadians all over the country are extremely optimistic about their chances to qualify for Qatar 2022.
Their remaining strength of schedule is quite favourable. They play Honduras, El Salvador, and Jamaica who rank eighth, seventh, and sixth respectively in the CONCACAF standings. With the talent on the Canadian roster, they should win all of those games with relative ease.
They have winnable games over Panama and Costa Rica who rank fourth and fifth.
The only extremely tough game they have remaining is a matchup with the second-place United States on January 30, 2022.
The United States has been playing just as well as the Canadians as of late. The last time these two teams met was a 1-1 draw on September 5th, a match where the Americans outshot the Canadians and won the possession battle. The Canadians have improved a lot since then.
The Canadians have played their toughest three or four games already and with a favorable schedule to come, end 2021 sitting pretty in first place atop the CONCACAF table.
Personally, I believe the winner of that matchup will likely win the group. Mexico’s reign atop the CONCACAF table is over after falling 2-0 to the US and 2-1 to Canada.
Canada has been very solid defensively, they play physically, do not give their opponents the chance to get set up, and often control the possession time.
On offense, they get production from everyone – starters and reserves – and there is a lot of talent on this roster behind Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David. If any team takes them for granted, anyone on the roster can be the difference-maker in a crucial match.
In 2018, when John Herdman took over as manager, the team was in a bad place, dysfunctional to say the least.
There was internal conflict between players of different ethnicities in the locker room and players felt that their facility was not a safe environment where the players felt like they can play at their best and hone their skills.
Almost four years later, the narrative changed. The leaders of the team knew that if they could improve the culture and team spirit, with the talent they have on their roster, they’d be in a prime position to compete with the best of the best. They did just that.
The culture has improved drastically, the team spirit and mutual respect everyone has for each other in the locker room has never been higher and they have talent and depth at nearly every position. This is a team that looks like it has been playing at an elite level for decades. The dysfunctionality before and right after Herdman took over is gone and it feels like that happened 30 years ago, not four.
On defense, Canada has a lot of talent with guys like Alphonso Davies, Doneil Henry, Richie Laryea, Alistair Johnston, and Kamal Miller among several others. However, Sam Adekugbe, a former Vancouver Whitecaps fullback has emerged as one of Canada’s better defenders in the last few World Cup qualifier matches with several elite performances, including playing the full 90 minutes in Canada’s last two games, both of which were super important. He has the skill set that makes him a natural fullback and he has gained the trust of Herdman.
With his defensive prowess, physical play, and ability to push the ball upfield, this gives Canada additional depth at the position, which allows Herdman to push Davies up the pitch into a more prominent attacking role. Despite being a natural fullback, Davies possesses the skills to set up his teammates and take quality shots on target.
On offense, they have a plethora of talent and depth at every position including guys like Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchannon, Atiba Hutchinson, Cyle Larin, Stephen Eustáquio, and Jonathan Osorio among many others. They can get offensive production from any of these guys.
All of those guys can score goals and set up their teammates with crisp passes, but their offense is set up in a way that allows some guys to advance the ball up the field and juke past defenders, some guys to make the passes to open teammates, and some guys who are responsible for scoring and who can score from anywhere.
Not to mention, Canada’s keeper Milan Borjan has been tremendous as of late, making many key saves against Mexico towards the end of the match to preserve Canada’s lead and who makes excellent saves on a consistent basis to keep Canada in games and to keep Canada from falling behind in games.
Canada’s national team looks incredibly good right now and they are in a prime position to qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Originally, Canada wasn’t supposed to qualify for their second-ever World Cup until 2026, when they would co-host the illustrious tournament with the United States and Mexico; however, with the way they’ve been playing, they look to be four years ahead of schedule.
With the Canadian women’s team winning the gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, there are even more expectations to qualify for Qatar 2022.
Do you believe now, Canada? I sure do.