It’s been a long, long wait for Canadian soccer fans who have had to wait almost three decades to see their (men’s) national team at a World Cup. But Canada did qualify – in some style, we might add – and fans will be brimming with confidence when the team first takes to the field in Qatar on November 23rd in the opening game against Belgium.
But how far can this talented Canadian team go at the World Cup? Success depends on your perspective. Canada will not win the World Cup. You can find odds of over 500/1 for them to do so, and some would say that’s being generous. That’s not supposed to a swipe at an exciting Canada team: it’s just a statement of fact that they operate on a different level to teams like Brazil and France.
Thus, when we said “do the impossible” in the title, we meant qualify from Group F and reach the knockout stages. That would represent a hugely successful World Cup for the Canadian team, and it would allow coach John Herdman to have a platform to build upon for 2026, when Canada will be one of the co-hosts. It’s a young team, remember, so Herdman will want to use Qatar to get his players some experience of the big stage, potentially believing they can upset the odds when mostly playing on their home patch.
A tough test
Nonetheless, getting out of Group F would be quite the achievement. According to the odds for world cup at Mr Green sports online, Canada is the most likely to finish bottom of the group. The Canadians have been drawn against Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco. They are ranked 2nd, 12th, and 22nd in the world respectively in the FIFA Rankings. Canada, ranked 41st, could have had a much easier draw, but it simply didn’t pan out that way.
The key game is perhaps the opening fixture against Belgium. If Canada can put up a good performance – perhaps nick a point –it will set them up nicely for the (on paper) two easier games to come. If Belgium swats Canada aside, then it will feel like an uphill task for the remainder of the tournament.
In most cases, four points is enough to secure qualification from the group stages at a World Cup. Depending on results elsewhere, three points can sometimes be enough. But, by and large, a team needs four points – a win and a draw – to qualify. Can you see Canada getting that from the three games against Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco?
Croatia could be toppled
The good news, perhaps, is that Game 2, against Croatia, might be much more winnable than it seems. Yes, the Croats did make the 2018 Final, but this is an aging side that perhaps depends too much on the guile of 37-year-old captain Luka Modric. It won’t be easy, but Canada could provide an upset, particularly if the team plays at the level it did during the qualifying campaign.
And then we will have the final game against Morocco on December 1st. The key here for Canada is to have something – even a point – to bring into the game. Morocco will be a tough opponent, for sure, but the game will offer the best chance for Canada to secure three points. But the Canadians will need to be fighting for something. Anything less, and the game could turn into a dead rubber.
Overall, then, we have probably painted a tough premise for Canada. None of it is meant to be disrespectful to a fine Canadian team, but there is a reason that the country struggled to make it to a World Cup since the 1980s. Still, there is a sense that should they go on and qualify for the knockout rounds, they will have earned that right. The gauntlet has been thrown down.