The Canadian Men’s National Team return to the World Cup stage this winter after a 36-year absence.
Les Rouges‘ only previous appearance on world football’s biggest stage was way back in 1986 when they exited a group containing the Soviet Union, France, and Hungary without a single point or goal.
However, times have changed under English head coach John Herdman, who brings a blend of exciting youth and experienced veterans to Qatar, aiming to cause a shock and send out a statement ahead of Canada co-hosting the next World Cup in 2026.
Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade), James Pantemis (CF Montreal), Dayne St Clair (Minnesota United)
Defenders: Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor), Derek Cornelius (Vancouver Whitecaps – Panetolikos), Alistair Johnston (CF Montreal), Richie Laryea (Nottingham Forest), Kamal Miller (CF Montreal), Steven Vitoria (Chaves), Joel Waterman (CF Montreal)
Midfielders: Stephen Eustaquio (FC Porto), Liam Fraser (Deinze), Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Toronto FC), Ismael Kone (CF Montreal), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Samuel Piette (CF Montreal), David Wotherspoon (St Johnstone)
Forwards: Tajon Buchanan (Club Bruges), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jonathan David (Lille), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Junior Hoillett (Reading), Cyle Larin (Club Bruges), Liam Miller (FC Basel), Ike Ugbo (Troyes)
Unfortunately, goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau misses out after fracturing his leg at MLS Cup, while Jahn Regensburg defender Scott Kennedy is also sidelined.
If Canada are to make a splash at this World Cup, Davies simply must be at his best. He plays at left-back for Bayern Munich but he’s a forward at heart, and he’ll look to use his pace and skill to cause some problems for the defenders in Group F. Canada are stacked in attack, but Davies is head and shoulders above the rest.
David has been in stunning form since joining Lille from Gent in 2020, scoring 37 goals in 90 Ligue 1 appearances (76 starts) so far. That form has more than translated to the international scene, with David hitting 22 goals in just 34 caps at a rate of 0.65 per game.
At 22, this could be the first of many World Cups for David, who is starting to attract the attention of some huge European clubs.
Only one player has more goals than David in CanMNT history: Cyle Larin. Though his strike rate is only 0.46 per game, nobody can match his 25 goals and some of them have been incredibly important.
In truth, Larin hasn’t found his best form since joining Club Brugge in the summer, but his 39-goal spell with Besiktas – where he won the Turkish Super Lig in 2021 – is proof enough of his quality.
Despite their attacking riches, Canada are still likely to spend most of this World Cup on the back foot. With that in mind, they need someone reliable between the sticks and Milan Borjan is exactly that.
At 35 years old, this will likely be Borjan’s only World Cup, but he’s a veteran who offers huge experience at the highest levels in Europe and a habit of making big saves at important moments for Canada.
Herdman has mostly stuck to a 3-4-3 formation with Canada recently. Three centre-backs allow for extra defensive solidity while also helping to build out from the back – though out of possession, it’ll look far more like a back five.
It’s in the attack where Canada are most impressive, though, with pace and goals everywhere.
CanMNT predicted XI: Borjan; Johnston, Vitoria, Miller; Buchanan, Eustaquio, Hutchinson, Adekugbe; David, Larin, Davies.
Canada have played 11 games so far in 2022 and while they’ve been a little inconsistent, results have been generally impressive.
The standout result is undoubtedly a 2-0 victory over the United States in January during qualifying for the World Cup.
Canada have one final friendly against Japan remaining before they face Belgium.
Canada’s last five results
CanMNT 4-0 Curacao
Honduras 2-1 CanMNT
CanMNT 2-0 Qatar
CaNMNT 0-2 Urugay
Bahrain 2-2 CanMNT
Given their lack of experience at this level, Canada will definitely be seen as minnows at the World Cup. That said, their David-Larin-Davies forward line is about as strong as you’ll find anywhere in the tournament outside the very elite nations.
There are, perhaps, worries at centre-back, but Herdman has plenty of experience at his disposal both in net and midfield to handle the big occasion.
Asking them to beat Belgium or Croatia is a huge ask, so they likely won’t make it out of the group. However, Canada will raise a few eyebrows and prove they can compete at this level.
Prediction: Group stage exit