Pranav Mannem ’24
It has been a while since the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team qualified for the group stage of the FIFA World Cup. Their last and only showing was in 1986, with a lackluster performance losing all three games in the group stage. However, 36 years later, with the 2022 FIFA World Cup set to take place in Qatar, a re-formed Canadian Men’s National Team will be returning to the big stage in November and aiming to perform better than their last appearance.
Canada’s soccer team plays in the CONCACAF league along with the best teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Within the league, only the top three teams will qualify to the group stage, and the fourth team will proceed to the intercontinental qualifiers. Throughout the CONCACAF qualifiers, Canada was a dominant force going undefeated until their last three games. The Canadian squad placed first in the CONCACAF league, beating strong teams like the United States and Mexico.
Over the years, the Canadian team’s roster has improved substantially. Canadian striker Cyle Larin was ranked second internationally for most goals scored throughout qualifying. He also ranked first in CONCACAF with fellow Canadian striker Jonathan David ranking second. Topping off the strong squad, Alphonso Davies is considered the best player in CONCACAF, and is one of the fastest players on the international level. He plays for Bundesliga league club, Bayern Munich, while also being the star of the Canadian Soccer team.
Since the 2022 World Cup is Canada’s first time back in so long, many fans and players were expected to get a new kit for the World Cup but, instead, Canada will be the only team in the group stage to wear the same jerseys as the year prior. With the World Cup qualifiers ending in March, it was important to maintain form and play friendly matches before the World Cup. However, the Canadian squad refused to play Panama over a pay dispute, and the match against Iran was cancelled over geopolitical issues.
After qualifying for the World Cup, the team was placed in Group “F” along with Morocco, Belgium, and Croatia. This seems to be a tough group to compete against as all three of these teams qualified for the World Cup in 2018. Morocco made it to the group stage while Belgium and Croatia advanced into the knockout stage. Belgium placed third in the tournament, while Croatia were runners-up after their loss to France in the finals.
My prediction: I speculate that Canada will beat Morocco but will be able to handle neither Belgium nor Croatia, leaving our national team eliminated in the group stage. It is, however, possible for an upset allowing Canada to slip through into the knockout stage. Nevertheless, I do not have any hope for Canada in the group stage as the team will be going up against fifteen of the best teams in the world, and their inexperience will come into play.
Photo credit: Canada Soccer/Martin Bazyl