The Canadian men’s national soccer team has qualified for the World Cup for the second time in history — the first being in 1986. This begs the question: does Canada have a chance to win it all? The answer to that, in my opinion, is a “no.” But that’s not necessarily the final goal.
Canada has been put in Group F in the FIFA men’s World Cup final draw, which consists of 2018 runners-up: Croatia, Belgium, and Morocco. While all three of these countries rank higher than Canada in the FIFA men’s world ranking, that should not be a determining factor come November. The World Cup is not devoid of surprises such as Germany’s shocking performance at the 2018 World Cup or South Korea knocking out Italy and Spain in the 2002 World Cup.
However, none resonate as closely with Canada’s situation as much as Costa Rica’s fairy-tale run during the 2014 World Cup. Costa Rica started out in Group D — dubbed the “group of death” by the media — with three former World Cup winners: England, Italy, and Uruguay. Against all odds, Costa Rica managed to top the group, beating both Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England. During this unpredictable run, Costa Rica went all the way to the quarterfinals, where they lost in the cruelest of fashions in the form of a penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands. Surprising runs like this prove that Canada could potentially go far in the playoffs as well.
Canada’s deep and diverse team, which consists of players from across the best leagues in Europe — including the top French and German divisions, amongst others — suggests a high quality of performance from their athletes. Not to mention that the Canadian team is made up of a younger roster relative to their opposition. The average age of team Canada is 26 whilst the average age of Belgium, for example, is 28. Therefore, Canada’s youthful team could be at a physical advantage when it comes to making it to the elimination stage.
However, one can only strategize so much. We will see where Canada ranks in the World Cup come November. Many factors, including Canada’s own Alphonso Davies’ health issues, may influence the verdict.
Team Canada does have a fighting chance to go far in the tournament and put Canada on the football map, but they could also be going home without picking up a single point. It is the unpredictability of the World Cup that allows Canada this fighting chance — teams coming together at the right time or falling apart at the wrong time makes it all worth watching.