Canada’s fairytale run to Qatar has been a pleasant surprise. It served as notice to the football fraternity that the Maple Leafs are no longer the poor cousins in North American soccer. However, a tough group awaits them as they hope to add to their lone appearance at the 1986 Finals.
They qualified for the first time in 36 years, topping the CONCACAF region. A return of 8 wins, 4 draws, and only 2 losses displayed their maturity and growing confidence. Victories over both regional giants, the USA and Mexico set the tone in a tough qualifying campaign.
Jamaica and Costa Rica, two frequent visitors to previous World Cups, had to make way for the marauding Canadians. It will be refreshing to see them along with other newbies like Qatar and Wales.
Alphonso Davies – Still only 21, the left-back’s excellent defending coupled with his foraging runs has become commonplace in European football. He is a vital cog in a well-oiled Bayern Munich machine. His experience will be needed for younger squad members.
Johnathan David – A pacy forward with Lille in France, the 22-year-old has a healthy strike rate of 22 goals in 34 internationals. He also had the luxury of playing under the current PSG coach, Christophe Galtier. Canadian fans will be hoping for a memorable tournament for this promising player.
Cyle Larin – He is currently playing in Switzerland with Club Brugge. The marksman was an important cog in qualifying with an impressive 13 goals. His prowess in the final third will be key to the Canadians making waves in a tough group.
World Cup Prognosis
The Maple Leafs make up Group F along with Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco. It is an extremely tough group with 2 European heavyweights and a former African champion.
Progressing out of the group might be a bridge too far for the spirited Canadians. A more realistic expectation for them will be getting at least a draw or a victory. Consequently, this will more than eclipse their 1986 showing of three defeats.
In addition, it would add to their pedigree as a burgeoning football nation.
An Unforgettable Experience
No matter how they fare in Qatar, the upcoming tournament is going to be crucial in this young squad’s development. The Canadian team needs to use this platform to capture the hearts and imagination of the broader sporting world. This is imperative if they are to become regular competitors in soccer’s Superbowl.
This young squad should take in the ultimate experience but not be overawed by any of their opponents. Footballers need to do their talking on the field. Reputations are all well and good yet the essence of competition is that on any day, even the best are susceptible to an upset.
Thus Canada’s fairytale run to Qatar should be treated as a great underdog story. Like the Jamaican bobsleigh team in Cool Runnings, they need to surprise friend and foe alike. Their youthful outlook is already a winning formula to add to their story.
All that remains, is an upset or two to really set the cat amongst the pigeons. Either way, all Canadians are the real winners.