The Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team currently sits atop the CONCACAF World Cup qualifier table with six qualifier games remaining. Canada currently with a record of 4-4-0 for 16 points and look like favourites to qualify for their first World Cup since 1986. Canada is ahead of the United States – which has a record of 4-3-1 for 15 points – and Mexico – which has a record of 4-2-2 for 14 points.
Canada’s only World Cup appearance was in 1986. They lost 1-0 to France, lost 2-0 to Hungary, and lost 2-0 to the USSR. In their three matches, they didn’t score a single goal and they weren’t really competitive in any of their games. However, based on Canada’s recent performances, there is reason to believe Canada will fare better in the 2022 World Cup with their current roster if they manage to qualify.
Team Canada ended 2021 on a strong note, winning their last three matches. In those three matches, they were able to control time of possession, get numerous quality chances and score goals. They outscored Panama, Costa Rica, and powerhouse Mexico by a combined margin of 7-2. They were also strong defensively, limiting quality chances by their opponents and using their counterattack to produce offense.
Canada remains the only undefeated team remaining in the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifier table. Canada is heating up at the right time. They have talent on defense, in the midfield, and at forward; they are also extremely well-coached by John Herdman and have a lot of depth outside their starting 11. Despite having a handful of notable stars on their roster, they are getting production from everyone.
Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan, Atiba Hutchinson, and Richie Lareya are the superstars on the roster but many other players have stepped up and put Canada in the position they are in now such as Cyle Larin, Ike Ugbo, Sam Adekugbe, Jonathan Osorio, Stephen Eustaquio, Alistair Johnson and Mark-Anthony Kaye, all of whom will be playing in the next three matches, all of which will be crucial for Canada.
On January 24, Canada’s National Team announced their 25 man roster ahead of the January slate of games. They will have all of their star players back except for Davies, who will miss the January international window after receiving a diagnosis of mild myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, following testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in January.
It is a huge loss for Canada, as Davies is tremendously skilled and one of Canada’s best players. However, Herdman said they are a strong, resilient squad that has a lot of depth and can overcome challenges. Cristián Gutiérrez plays in a similar position to Davies, and will likely see a lot of minutes in Davies’ absence.
On January 27, Canada will travel to Honduras, a place where the National Team has struggled to get points from in the past. Honduras is last in the CONCACAF table, with a record of 0-3-5, for only three points and it is a very winnable game, but you cannot underestimate any team no matter the circumstances. The last time these two teams played each other on September 2, they drew 1-1. Alexander Lopez opened the scoring in the 39th minute for Honduras with a penalty kick and Canada’s Larin evened the game with a penalty kick in the 65th minute. Both teams recorded 15 shots, Honduras had six shots on target and Canada had only three. Canada dominated possession time, 66 to 34 percent though, and moved the ball better. Predicting Canada will take a 2-0 lead and concede a late goal to win 2-1.
On January 30, Canada hosts a very strong United States squad, led by Christian Pulisic, in Hamilton. These two teams are arguably the best in the group and both will likely qualify for the World Cup. The winner of this match between first-place Canada and the second-place US will likely secure first place in the table. This is a winnable game for Canada, but it will be extremely tough against a talented, well-rounded, and well-coached US side.
Canada has struggled against the US, both throughout history and recently. In all competitions, Canada has 11 wins, 11 draws, and 18 losses against the US. In their last 10 matches vs the US, Canada has one win, four draws, and five losses. However, the last time these two teams played each other, they drew 1-1 on September 5. The US outshot Canada 11-6, but each team had two shots on target. The US controlled time of possession handily with 72 percent, and like against Honduras, Canada conceded first before equalizing later.
Canada played excellent defense against the US and took advantage of their strong defense and midfield to get offensive chances on the counterattack. Larin scored his second goal in two games. I predict this game will be a 2-2 draw. Canada will take a 1-0 lead, the US will then take a 2-1 lead and Canada will tie the game in the 85th minute with the help of the fans’ energy.
Finally, on February 2, Canada will visit El Salvador. El Salvador is seventh place in the CONCACAF table with a record of 1-3-4 for six points. However, they do have some talent on their roster and have improved a bit defensively, conceding only four goals in their last three competitive games. This is an improvement from earlier in the World Cup qualifiers when they conceded two goals to Mexico and Costa Rica and three to Canada.
Again, a winnable game for Canada, but they cannot take their opposition lightly. The last time these two teams played each other was on September 8, where Canada earned a decisive 3-0 win. Despite losing possession time 59 to 41 percent, Canada was brilliant offensively. Hutchinson and David scored in the sixth and 11th minute respectively to give Canada an early 2-0 lead. Canada doubled El Salvador’s shot total 14-7 and had five shots on goal to El Salvador’s zero. Once they took a 2-0 lead, they played strong defense and did not allow El Salvador to get any shots on target and limited their chances and time on attack. Buchanan scored again in the 59th minute to give Canada a 3-0 lead. I predict Canada will play strong defense and shut out El Salvador again in a 2-0 win.
If Canada can go 2-1-0 in the next international window, they will have a record of 6-5-0, totaling 23 points. I believe the US will also beat both El Salvador and Honduras to record a record of 6-4-1, totaling 22 points. This means the winner of the CONCACAF group will come down to the final set of three games.
In Canada’s last three matches, they play Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Panama. They beat Panama 4-1, Costa Rica 1-0, and tied Jamaica 0-0 the last time they played these teams. Meanwhile, the US has Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica in their last three games. Canada has the easier schedule and thus I predict they will finish first in the group, especially if they get Davies back for the last window of matches. However, Canada, the US, and Mexico will all qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Whatever happens, these next few qualifier matches are sure to be very exciting, especially Canada’s home game against the US. Being without Davies may prove to be a big challenge, but I think with the depth and talent on their roster, they will figure something out, even if they have to change things up schematically.