We discussed how Canada got to the World Cup and mentioned the teams they would face. The last stage of this beginner’s guide to Canada’s World Cup is learning who represents our country.
The last time Canada went to a World Cup was in 1986, hosted by Mexico. In that squad, Tony Walters, the Canadian manager, selected four players that played their club soccer outside of North America – Terry Moore (Glentoran, Northern Ireland), Igor Vrablic (Seraing, Belgium), Randy Samuel (PSV, Netherlands) and Colin Miller (Rangers, Scotland). Since then, soccer’s evolution in Canada has grown massively, and the key players in this squad play significant roles on their European club teams. This time, Jon Herdman takes 15 players who play weekly for teams across the pond.
Of course, the big headliner is Edmonton’s very own Alphonso Davies. Davies plays for Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in the world, in the Bundesliga in Germany. A few weeks ago, there was a slight scare when it looked like his tournament was in jeopardy after he suffered a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, he will not play the first game against Belgium but will be fit to play against Croatia and Morocco. Canada has a lot of talent, but nobody compares to what Davies provides to this team with his speed and technicality.
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If you read the “journey” pour off the beginner’s guide to Canada’s World Cup, you may have noticed Cyle Larin’s name shows up a few times. Larin is the former 1st overall pick in the MLS Superdraft from 2015 and now plays his club soccer with Club Brugge in Belgium. He was fantastic for Canada throughout qualifying, scoring 13 goals, the most in CONCACAF qualifying, and at massive times. He scored game-winners against Mexico (at Commonwealth Stadium) versus Haiti in the first leg of round two and in the game that secured their ticket to Qatar against the United States. Larin has not been as remarkable for his club team scoring only one goal in nine games, however, this man never fails to show up for Canada.
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The other two forwards to watch for Canada are Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanon. David was right behind Larin on the goalscorers list with nine and is in great form with his club team Lille heading into the World Cup. He leads Lille in goals with nine and is fourth in Ligue 1 scoring, only three behind Kylian Mbappe with 12. David has been linked with many big European clubs and is regarded as a top talent worldwide. As for Buchanon, he is an upcoming star in his regard. Buchanon won the Gold Cup Young Player Award in 2021 and was named the best eleven in that tournament. Since then, he has established a reputation with Club Brugge, the same team as Larin. Lookout for Buchanon to continue to bolster his status in this World Cup in Canada’s attack.
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Atiba Hutchinson is the heartbeat of this Canadian squad. In Qatar, Hutchinson will capture his 100th cap for the national team, making him the first player to accomplish that. The veteran midfield has been through it all for Canada, and if anybody deserves to be at this World Cup more than the other, it is him. His midfield partner is 25-year-old Stephen Eustáquio, who is in the best form of his career. Eustáquio is now in his second season with FC Porto, the 2004 UEFA Champions League winner. Heading into the 2022 season, he had only scored three career goals and two assists in eight years. In 17 games between the league and other competitions, the Canadian midfield is becoming a threat from the midfield with four goals and as many assists. The World Cup could not have come at a better time for Eustáquio.
Defensively, the main back line is typically Kamal Miller (CF Montreal), Steven Vitoria (Chaves), Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor), and Alistair Johnston (CF Montreal). Behind them is Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade), a 35-year-old goalkeeper with 68 caps. Johnston is the player to watch for from the defensive group. He is an upcoming right back who provides help in the attack and strong defensive play. Caroline Szwed and I interviewed him, the Canadian defender, before the World Cup, and he gave great insight into what the build-up to the tournament has been like.
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A few other names to look for are Ismail Kone, a young upcoming star, Junior Hoilett, a veteran who has spent most of his career in the English football pyramid, and Ritchie Laryea, an attacking-minded wide player.
It is an exciting time for Canadian soccer fans, and it all gets going on Wednesday versus Belgium. For a team that has only been to one World Cup since 1986, Canada should not be underestimated at this tournament. Yes, they are in a tough group with Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco, however, John Herdman is taking a very talented squad to Qatar and is going to perform.
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