World Cup | Canada’s friendlies in five storylines

Canada plays Friday and Tuesday two of its last three preseason games before the November World Cup in Qatar. Overview of the intrigues surrounding the friendly matches planned against Qatar, precisely, and Uruguay.

Posted at 8:00 a.m.

Jean-Francois Teotonio

Jean-Francois Teotonio
The Press

1. Sufficient opposition?

It’s been a long time since Canada faced a team outside the CONCACAF region. He beat New Zealand in Spain in March 2018 in John Herdman’s first match at the helm. Then lost against Iceland in January 2020, in California.

Needless to say how important the friendlies against Qatar on Friday and then Uruguay on Tuesday are. And welcome, before a World Cup with titanic Belgian, Croatian and Moroccan challenges.

Herdman often says he wants his players to develop against top-tier opponents. In club as in selection. As such, the clash against Uruguay will offer him an excellent barometer to know where his flock are. They will face Darwin Núñez (Liverpool), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Rodrigo Betancur (Tottenham), Ronald Araújo (FC Barcelona) and Edinson Cavani (Valencia).

Of course, a European opponent would have been even better before facing Belgium or Croatia. But these formations are all engaged in the League of Nations this week. Uruguay, ranked 13e in the world, is in itself a solid plan B for Canada (43e).

Of course, first there is Qatar (48e), this Friday. The host country of the World Cup is not full of big names in football. But he has the advantage, for the maple leaf, of being another participant in the World Cup. These kinds of occasions should not be disdained.

2. Joel Waterman’s Opportunity


Joel Waterman

In view of his very good season at the ramparts, CF Montreal supporters did not see the selection of Joel Waterman at the Canada camp as a surprise. But just two months before the World Cup, his recall is an incredible opportunity to make his place in John Herdman’s chessboard.

Waterman has never played internationally at any level. During his first selection, in March 2021, he did not tread the field. This time, the injury of Doneil Henry, a central defender regularly used by Herdman, opens the door wide to the first Canadian minutes.

Waterman has delivered consistent performances in Montreal this year. It is also in constant evolution since its arrival in the metropolis. In 2022, alongside compatriots Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller, Waterman showed fine accuracy in his passing, tackling and decision-making. Until becoming an indisputable starter in Wilfried Nancy’s troupe.

Barring a disappointment, it is not impossible that Joel Waterman gets on the Canadian plane to Qatar in November.

3. Ismaël Koné, to confirm


Ismael Kone

Ismaël Koné has several reasons to rejoice these days. He experienced a meteoric rise with CF Montreal. It attracts the greed of major European clubs. And here he gets a second recall with the Canadian selection.

Will it be confirmation for the young Quebecer? Will he find a way to win in a decimated midfield?

What is interesting in his case is the little video content to analyze for Canada’s opponents. Not impossible that John Herdman, always looking for an advantage, however slight, wants to use it to disconcert his rivals.

Koné has played two games for Les Rouges. As an under-21 player, he only has one more to be officially tied to Canada for the rest of his career. A career that promises to be beautiful and fruitful, moreover. That too is at stake this week.

4. Reconjugate the midfield


Atiba Hutchinson

The injury to Atiba Hutchinson, pillar of the Canadian midfielder for so many years, falls badly. As much for him as for his selection. The 39-year-old veteran suffered a bone contusion in pre-season with Besiktas. John Herdman hopes to see him back in action by October, at best. Otherwise, his captain’s place could be in danger in November.

How to replace him for the two games in September? Especially since Hutchinson is not the only question mark in the middle: Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC) have just returned from injury.

Herdman can count on Samuel Piette as a quarterback. The Quebec defensive midfielder is in very good shape at CF Montreal, and knows the Canadian system well. Paired with Stephen Eustáquio to form a double pivot, Piette could simply take the place of Hutchinson. But Herdman would not be his first surprise either.

5. Attackers in questionable forms


Tajon Buchanan

The brilliance of Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David propelled Canada through the absence of Alphonso Davies in the most recent qualifying matches. Where are they today?

Davies continues to do well with Bayern Munich. He took part in six of the team’s seven games, registering one assist. While playing important minutes in the Champions League. The Canadian gem never ceases to shine.

It’s going just as well for Jonathan David: 5 goals and 2 assists in 8 Ligue 1 games this season with Lille.

It’s more complicated for Larin and Buchanan. The former has hardly played for Club Brugge, Belgium this season. Neither does the second, but he’s also nursing a quadriceps injury. Buchanan should only be on the pitch for a few minutes, and only against Uruguay, according to John Herdman.

However, there is one intriguing name on the coach’s cards: winger Lucas Koleosho. An 18-year-old playing at Espanyol, the other big Catalan club, who has never played for Canada before. Its presence in the field will depend on the strategy employed by Herdman: do we consolidate our achievements, or do we experiment?

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