VAN DIEST: Canadian talent comes in the World Cup qualifier

Halfway through the final Konkakaf qualifying stage, Canada is in a position to win a place in a men’s World Cup for the first time since its only appearance in 1986.

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For the Canadian men’s national football team, the road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was adventurous, and along the way it proved to be the most talented men’s squad ever assembled by the country.

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Halfway through the final Konkakaf qualifying stage, Canada is in a position to win a place in a men’s World Cup for the first time since its only appearance in 1986.

Jonathan David’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica, in front of more than 48,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday, kept Canada third in the eight-team reputation with 13 points, one behind the United States and Mexico, and more importantly, two up on fourth place Panama.

Canada could overtake Mexico in the positions when the teams meet Tuesday at Commonwealth, where an even larger crowd is expected.

“We’re happy where we are, we know we could get more points, but we are confident in our skills and we know Mexico will be a tough game,” said Canadian defender Sam Adekugbe. “I think we’re looking back, we’re in a good situation and we know what our ambitions are, and we just have to keep pressing three points every game. We are happy but we are not satisfied. ”

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The top three teams after the 14-match round robin qualifier for Qatar, with the fourth, advancing to a continental final for extra place at the World Cup.

With head coach John Herdman pressing all the right buttons up to this point, there is a growing belief in the squad that they can not only finish third and win an automatic World Cup, but could win the CONCACAF group directly.

Draws in the United States and Mexico have swung the pendulum in favor of Canada against the two teams they now receive.

Mexico lost 2-0 to the United States in Cincinnati on Friday, which had them slip into the standings and now have to play in the cold in Edmonton. The United States, meanwhile, is traveling to face Jamaica.

“We know how good Mexico is, they are known as the best team in CONCACAF and even though they lost (Friday), they still have a lot of quality and can still be dangerous,” Adekugbe said. “We need to focus on what we can do and how to prevent them from getting the best out of themselves.

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“It will be another difficult game, but we went there and got a result in a difficult stadium (Azteca) one of the most difficult in the world. We know our quality and we know what we can do and we’re just focusing on that going forward. “

It talks a lot about the quality of the Canadian side as a win in the final round of a World Cup qualifying can be criticized for not being dominant enough or comfortable enough. However at this stage – one Canada did not progress in a quarter of a century before this year – it is all about the outcome.

Playing in front of the third-largest crowd ever in men’s national team history and under the heavy weight of expectations, in less-than-ideal conditions, Canada did the job. Now it’s to the next one.

“It was a tough game, Costa Rica is a good side and it took some time to find out how we can get the best out of ourselves on the field,” Adekugbe said. “We’ve made a few changes over half time as teams, and we’ve been able to be more dominant. We have a lot of quality attacking players. We always rely on our ability to create chances and score goals. We want to keep doing it.”

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Herdman and his coaching staff deserve credit for contracting all the talent reaching Canada to this stage in qualifying. Herdman should also be praised for recruiting players with Canadian ties who otherwise might not have been part of the national team.

Former Chelsea product Ike Ugbo is the latest to join the team. Ugbo grew up in London, England, but spent part of his youth in Ontario, which made him eligible to play for Canada. When the opportunity to play for England seemed to dry up, Herdman convinced the striker to carry the Maple Leaf, adding another talent to the growing stable.

Ugbo, who was also eligible to play for Nigeria through his father, came on as a late substitute against Costa Rica and almost scored his first international goal.

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“First, he’s now cap-tied, so that’s good news for Canada, he’s not going to Nigeria or England,” Herdman said of Ugbo now engaged to Canada after entering the field in a senior international. “But he won that place. He’s a real poacher and I think if he were a little longer he might find the back of the net. “

Ugbo could see more time against Mexico on Tuesday as its expected Alphonso Davies will slide to his usual spot on the left flank, where he has been most effective for Canada. He started ahead as a striker against Costa Rica.

Herdman also has a number of other options to throw to Mexico with a lot of talent available.

“Our team is quite flexible and fairly fluid and that’s a credit to the coaching staff,” Adekugbe said. “We have done a lot of tactical work since the beginning of this camp. I was very comfortable out there and so were the other players and the result was a close game, but we felt we had control and we were the more dominant side. “

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