Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope your weekend was worthy of qualifying for a World Cup — and here’s hoping for more of the same this week.
The obvious news here is the history-making 4-0 win over Jamaica, sending the Canadian Men’s National Team through to Qatar and the 2022 World Cup. It marks the first time since 1986 that the men have qualified for the competition and while it was an almost certain done deal, it was remarkable seeing the atmosphere at BMO Field to mark the occasion.
I am, as has been pointed out, an interloper when it comes to Canadian soccer. As an American, our World Cup qualifying campaign has not been as much of a victory lap, nor has it galvanized our country to much of anything aside from griping about Gregg Berhalter.
This has certainly not been the case for our neighbors to the north. The logical question quickly becomes whether the Canadians should (gulp) be the favorite among all CONCACAF teams when we pivot from away trips to El Salvador and Honduras and move on to the real deal in Qatar.
First, let me say that there is little doubt that Canada is presently the best CONCACAF team at the moment and that fact has been true for most all of qualifying. The depth of the team will likely only grow in the coming months, with John Herdman having to make some honest to God difficult decisions as to who is on the plane to the Gulf and who is not (guys like Ike Ugbo and even Lucas Cavallini could well see their club role grow in the coming months and make for a real genuine dilemma).
There are reasonable questions that can be asked of the CMNT defense when compared with the elite European and South American sides but similar questions exist for the U.S. (Miles Robinson notwithstanding) and Mexico (who have struggled with their centerback pairings all qualifying cycle). Need we forget that Costa Rica went to the knockout stages with an MLS-level backline (sure, Keylor Navas papers over a bunch of flaws but still).
And it sure helps to have the two best players in CONCACAF on your side, barring injuries. But still, this is the World Cup — if the U.S. and Mexico have struggled in recent years to make a deep run, what does that mean for Canada?
Frankly, there isn’t a ton of precedent for a team like this, which is both simultaneously making its first World Cup appearance in 35 years, while also seeing such marked growth that one can reasonably say they should make it out of the group stages, depending on the opposition. Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire and Croatia are non-traditional powers have had golden generations in my lifetime (Senegal comes to mind as a current example) but with the possible exception of Cote d’Ivoire, none of them had as meteoric of a rise.
This isn’t a cute, feel good story. But also experience helps in the World Cup. There is a reason, after all, that certain teams are mainstays in the knockout stages. In major international tournaments, when anything can and sometimes does happen, having a veteran presence matters.
Too many variables can happen to dictate the likelihood Canada will make a deep run. And at this stage, it is probably best to sit back and marvel at the transformational atmosphere that their run has had on the soccer culture of the country (and enjoy that you have qualified without having to rely on getting something out of an away trip to, say, Costa Rica).
In any event, despite being a USMNT homer, I still wouldn’t bet against Canada to be the last team standing from CONCACAF in November/December.
Shameless Self Promotion
Lest we forget about our beloved Whitecaps, Caleb Wilkins runs down where he feels the team sits after four games and what it means for the future.
Best of the Rest
More on the impact of John Herdman’s leadership on the Canadian football landscape
Even though Alphonso Davies couldn’t be on the pitch when Canada qualified, it was still an emotional moment
Is Ismael Kone the next Davies? Probably not but we’re stuck with these comparisons anyway
Despite my fatalism, it would take a catastrophic collapse away in Costa Rica for the U.S. not to directly qualify for Qatar.
The Thundercaps 2.0 fell in their first MLS NEXT Pro match against Houston