Canada’s national men’s soccer team is in the midst of a golden generation, and has a serious opportunity to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986.
As a lifelong Canadian soccer fan, I can’t believe I’m writing those words.
Last week, Canada beat Mexico in a game that will go down as one of the most important results in our national team’s history. The 2-1 win on a freezing night in Edmonton was a huge statement and showed Canada is – finally – knocking on the world’s door.
The hard-fought victory over Mexico – earned in wintery conditions that played to Canada’s advantage – put our team in first place in CONCACAF (the North and Central American confederation) in the final round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
With six games left, Canada is now the only unbeaten team in our confederation, perched above the perennially strong United States and Mexico. The top three teams from CONCACAF qualify for the World Cup (which kicks off in one year), while the fourth-place team will have to play a two-game qualifier against a country from another confederation.
It’s surreal to be this close to the World Cup, as our country has always been a relative soccer minnow. With winter lasting almost half a year here, soccer has never been able to thrive in Canada the way it has in other countries.
That’s starting to change, though. Our roster now boasts the likes of Alphonso Davies, who is a key member of one of the best club teams in Europe, in Bayern Munich, and Jonathan David, who is a defending French league champion with Lille OSC. Canada is finally showing we have the soccer talent to compete at the top level.
While Davies and David are the headline-makers, Canada’s squad is brimming with talent in every position. We have veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson and striker Cyle Larin playing for Besiktas (the defending champion in Turkey’s top soccer league), and Tajon Buchanan, who was nominated as one of the top U22 players in Major League Soccer last season after impressing for the New England Revolution. Our goalkeeper Milan Borjan plays for Red Star Belgrade – the best team in Serbia – while other members are plying their trade in Europe or MLS.
I’ve been waiting a long time for Canada’s national team to be good, and admit I had grown used to the team letting me down. I remember watching in frustration when Canada was thumped 8-1 by Honduras in a crucial World Cup qualifier in 2012, (a game we only needed a draw to advance to the next round) or when we gave up three second-half goals to be knocked out of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup by Haiti.
It seems a turning of the tide is finally in order.