The last and only time Canada was at the football World Cup was back in 1986 and even though Canadian clubs have been active in the MLS, top level Canadian football has been on the up and up more recently. A few years ago they created a local championship league and football in Canada is more popular than ever. Prime examples of this are Canada reaching the World Cup this year in a confident manner and them hosting the next World Cup in 4 years time.
How do they play?
The first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Canadian football is “speed”. Head coach John Herdman has some of the fastest wingers in the world at his disposal, plus some very capable strikers. To make the most of this a frequent strategy is relinquishing the ball to the opposing team and banking on a counterattack. Top level Canadian football has not been around for very long but the team has already managed to chisel out some cornerstones for their game. Where offense is concerned, they’ve got things handled. But questions begin to arise when talking about Canada’s defense. Additionally, Herdman needs to consider how to best use their crown jewel – Alphonso Davies. Should it be in an attacking role or a defending one? Or maybe as the number 10?
Why they can win?
Canada showed that even though they had to battle it out with experienced football nations such as Mexico or USA in the qualifiers, overcoming these hurdles was not difficult. At the same time they never lost to any of their direct rivals. Davies is a clear and high quality leader for the team who could very easily make starter even at the best football squads on the planet. The Canadian team, albeit young, has shown remarkable strength of character and really doesn’t fear anyone.
Why they can lose?
It’s very likely that Canada’s main plan of action at this World Cup is to play for counterattacks. However, doing this at home in a qualification game and doing it on the big stage, against opponents such as previous medalists Croatia and Belgium, is an entirely different beast. It can technically work, but on the flip side letting your opponents get the ball may leave you under more pressure than you bargained for. The second disadvantage Canada has is their defensive line. Sure, their defensive players are disciplined and have great work ethic but they lack the experience playing against the elite ball handlers they will be runnning up against.
The leading stars
Looking at the team’s lineup, one player sticks out like a sore thumb – the Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies. Despite only being 22 years old, Davies has repeatedly been named one of the best players in the position, both at his domestic league as well as the UEFA Champions League. He’s already a four-time German champion and has won the Champions League trophy once. His national team debut happened when he was just 16. In addition to Davies one can’t forget about Jonathan David – the 22-year-old scoring machine from Lille who has demonstrated that scoring in the Belgian and French leagues is a walk in the park to him.
The fresh faces
The 23-year-old winger Tajon Buchanan, who plays for Club Brugge on a day to day basis, may find himself in a very important role at this year’s World Cup. Buchanan hasn’t quite broken through to the top 5 clubs in Europe, but it should only be a matter of time if he continues playing at the same pace.