Croatia. Belgium. The Morocco. These will be Canada’s three opponents in the first round of the soccer World Cup.
Published on 1er april
An easy group? No. Available? Maybe.
Exciting? So much !
The Croats were finalists at the last World Cup. The Belgians were, until this week, first in the world ranking. The Moroccans have just dominated the African qualifications. And the Canadians? Those are the new kids on the block. Brilliants. Dynamics. Threatening. No one wants to face them.
It is with a good dose of confidence that Canada’s head coach, John Herdman, reacted to the results of the draw on Friday. And this, even if of the four teams, his is the weakest in the world ranking.
“We are not naive, but we are not afraid either,” he said. Then he became feverish like a 5-year-old child who discovers the box of Panini tights, next to the cash register, at the local convenience store. I had never transcribed a quote from a coach with so much punctuation in a single paragraph.
“Hey, now it’s true! Canada is on the big stage! We are not only going to Qatar; we’re going to play it. For the players, for the team, for the country, what an opportunity! »
I know, many of you would have preferred Canada to fall into a weaker quartet. The one led by Qatar, for example. Not me. As long as you find the world elite after 36 years, you might as well face it. John Herdman was also looking forward to facing quality opponents.
“We wanted matches [difficiles] like those. Anyway, at the World Cup, there are no easy encounters. Any team can beat any other on any given day. That’s what a soccer tournament is. Belgium, we know its qualities. She relies on players like [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Romelu] Lukaku. Look at what they have done on the international stage. The Croats were finalists four years ago. We want that. We want to write history. We will give our full potential by leveraging our determination, and when we face the best players in the world without fear. »
Let’s talk about these adversaries. What should you know about them?
A very big challenge. The selection is talented, especially in midfield, with Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea) and Mario Pašalić (Atalante). On the other hand, several stars are on their decline. At 36, Modrić no longer has the confidence he had in 2018, when he won the Ballon d’Or. Consequence: since the start of the pandemic, Croatia has had a string of disappointing performances. Countries of Canada’s strength, such as Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia, have managed to beat it, or snatch it from null verdicts. This game will be within reach for the Canadians.
Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodžić did not share John Herdman’s enthusiasm on Friday night when he met the local press. “I am not calm. It’s a very difficult draw, with the vice-world champions, Belgium, third at the last World Cup, and the best team in North America. Hey, that’s Canada! However, Morocco has everything to be confident. Since the start of the pandemic, he has lost just one out of 31 matches in all competitions. It’s a good defensive team, which relies on an all-star fullback, Achraf Hakimi (PSG), as well as a Montreal-born goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), alias Bono. An interesting duel for Canada.
The big name of the group. A superpower, packed with elite players from the English Premier League, like Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea) and Youri Tielemans (Leicester). The Belgians will be heavily favored to defeat the Canadians, whom they will face in their first match of the tournament. Their head coach, Roberto Martínez, nevertheless told the Belgian media that he was wary of our young representatives. “They will arrive at the World Cup surfing the wave of enthusiasm caused by their qualification. They made a perfect run. They were very regular. I was impressed by their victories against Mexico and the United States. »
If, against all odds, the Canadians defy the odds and qualify for the second round, they could face the Spaniards. Or the Germans. Then the Brazilians. Nice change of scenery for a team which, for four years, has faced only one non-American opponent, Iceland, in a friendly match.
Canada’s course will be marked. Hard. Demanding. But being part of the world elite is also that. And you know what ?
It’s downright euphoric.
The composition of the eight groups
- United States
- Scotland, Ukraine or Wales
- Saudi Arabia
- Peru, United Arab Emirates or Australia
- New Zealand or Costa Rica
- South Korea
Three of the 32 participating nations are not yet known and will be decided after play-offs between: 1) Peru and the winner of the match between the United Arab Emirates and Australia; 2) Costa Rica and New Zealand; 3) Wales and the winner of the match between Ukraine and Scotland.