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The Canadian men’s national soccer team’s successful start to 2022

Discussing the team’s January and February World Cup qualifying matches
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So far, the Canucks have been an exciting, unexpected, and fun team. MARKCI/FLICKR
So far, the Canucks have been an exciting, unexpected, and fun team. MARKCI/FLICKR

The Canadian men’s national soccer team has been on a roll ever since they beat Mexico. Their momentum caused them to beat Honduras, the USA, and El Salvador with 2–0 wins against each, and the team now stands one win away from securing a seat on a flight to Qatar for the World Cup. 

So far, the Canucks have been an exciting, unexpected, and fun team to watch. Regardless of what happens throughout the rest of the qualifiers and — potentially — the World Cup, the team has already brought this country together with their performance.

The Canadian team’s journey so far

“Destiny is in our hands… We’ll keep believing. Our country is behind us,” said John Herdman, the coach for the team, in an interview for Canada Soccer. And destiny does seem to be in their hands, as the last two wins for the team are indicative of how confident the boys are getting. 

On January 30, the Canadian men’s national soccer team beat the US for the first time since 2019. The rivalry between the two has been stark, and of all the times they have faced off, the US men’s national team won 18 out of 29 matches. 

On the other hand, their win against El Salvador shows that the team has luck on their side. After a scoreless half against El Salvador, the Canadian team’s international top goal scorer, Cyle Larin, decided to take charge. 

The forward dribbled down the sideline to the opposing goal line and proceeded to cross the ball to a lucky onlooker, who happened to be the team’s captain, Atiba Hutchinson. Hutchinson dove forward and headed the ball, which was deflected by the goalie, resulting in a ricochet off his back that ultimately ended up with the ball miraculously curling into the top bin of the net. The goal looked like a video game, as if it was a FIFA glitch of some sort. But instead of resulting in a broken controller, it secured Canada’s win.

An unspoken factor in all of this is that Canada is playing without their golden boy and recently popular Twitch star, Alphonso Davies. Davies has noted that he’s been “bored” during his recent recovery from myocarditis and watching the Canadian men’s soccer team succeed from behind a screen, as thousands of his fans watch his reaction. 

The road ahead for Canada

The last few months of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) World Cup qualifying matches have seen the Canadian men’s soccer team reach a number of milestones. In November, for example, the team secured their first win against Mexico since 2000, and were promoted to 40th place in FIFA’s men’s teams rankings. And it seems likely that even more milestones are in store for the team as they are rapidly approaching what could be their first World Cup appearance since 1986.

There is a strong competition to play in the World Cup — this year, only 32 out of the 210 competing teams will get the opportunity. And once a team qualifies, they will face some of the most skilled opponents in the world. 

The last time the Canadian men’s soccer team played in the World Cup, they exited winless and goalless from the group stage of the tournament. However, much has changed since then and Canada is the closest that they have been in 24 years to qualifying for one of the most viewed tournaments in the world.

So far, 15 of the 32 spots have been filled, and the Canadian men’s team is hoping to take one of the remaining 17 spots. They are guaranteed to finish in at least fourth place in their qualifying group, and only need one more win from their final three games to secure their spot in the World Cup. Given the fact that this team has not yet lost a match in the qualifying stage, they are in an altogether comfortable position heading into their final games.

The team’s next game will be on March 24, and the last of their qualifying matches will be played six days later. After their recent 2–0 win against El Salvador, Herdman seemed cautiously optimistic about his teams’ qualification chances. “It’s going to happen. We know it’s going to happen. We have to stay humble, though. We’re not there yet,” he said. 

This team has certainly come a long way from 2018, when Herdman had just been appointed head coach. He has previously explained that the team was not a unified group at that time — in fact, he even witnessed fights between team members at practice. Just four years later, though, Richie Lareya recently described the team as a “big brotherhood.” 

In another four years, who knows what this team could accomplish. But hopefully, one day soon, a World Cup win will be included in that list.