BIG READ: As World Cup nears, Herdman is ready for Canada to shock the world - again
VANCOUVER - Nearly six months after they qualified for the men’s World Cup for the first time in 36 years, the CanMNT’s improbable run through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying still stands out in many ways.
To have gone from having missed out on the final round of qualifiers every edition since 1998, to topping the ‘Octagonal’ in style, Canada managed to exceed expectations, and then some, during their run to Qatar.
A big part of that? The leadership of head coach, John Herdman, who after a seven-year stint with the CanWNT where he helped the team also similarly reach new heights, has kept that going on the men’s side of the program since his appointment back in 2018.
With an innovative set of ideas, a unique way of working with players and a flexible tactical approach, that allowed Canada to catch the rest of the region by surprise during qualifiers, as they set out to build what they called a ‘new Canada’.
Safe to say, as the results show, that quest has worked out pretty well for them, too.
Now, with the World Cup less than 100 days away, however, they’re now looking to produce a similar shock once again. It will be far harder to do so, yes, as they’ve been drawn in a group with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, three very good sides, but as they showed in qualifiers, where they pulled off big wins against the likes of US, Mexico and Costa Rica, they’ll at least be up for those battles.
And as they get set for those games, Herdman took the time to peel back the curtain and reflect on the journey that his team has been on to get to this point, as well as what’s next for them, giving a look at what’s next for this upstart CanMNT team, one who is looking to win the hearts of the world over in Qatar.
Canada’s tactical evolution: “We learned to be very adaptable”
It was a sight to behold.
Having used a 3-5-2 for most of their opening game of the ‘Octagonal’, a disappointing 1-1 draw against Honduras, Canada then came out against the US in their second game in a brand new 5-4-1, one that sometimes morphed into a 3-4-3, helping them grab a monumental point on the road against their rivals.
Then, to round off the window, they used a 4-2-3-1 that also became a 5-3-2 and even a 4-4-2 at times in a 3-0 win over El Salvador.
You lost yet? You’re not the only one.
Yet, that was something that Canada set out to do from the onset of their qualifying journey back at the beginning of 2021. Instead of following conventional wisdom and sticking with one defined shape and one tactical philosophy, as is typical in soccer, they decided to throw that all aside and go for an approach that saw them consistently mix things up, adapting based on their available personnel, as well as what their opponents looked to do.
And considering that they finished with 28 points from 14 games in the Octo, beating every team at least once, while picking up the most points at home and second-most on the road, that plan worked to a tee, rewarding their faith in the unique strategy.
“Well, we set out right from the onset, the vision for the team, which has to be the most organized and adaptable team in CONCACAF, and then underneath that, to be the most connected with our team spirit,” Herdman told OneSoccer in an exclusive interview earlier this summer. “And I think that level of tactical excellence shone through in World Cup qualifying.”
“To go into those different environments, you need different types of blueprints, and you have to adapt to the conditions, whether it was the surface, the heat, or the profiles of your opponent, to the fatigue of travelling, and I think we handled all of that really well.”
Yet, that just shows how his team was able to respond to the challenge that was World Cup qualifying, a grind that folded many in CONCACAF , but instead seemed to get the most out of this Canadian side.
Because of that, as they get set for the World Cup, Herdman feels that flexibility can be a big bonus for this Canadian side, who as mentioned earlier, just seems to relish these big moments.
“When I first came (in 2018), when we set out on that journey, we were playing a lot of matches against tier three CONCACAF teams, the St. Kitts and Nevis’s, the Dominica’s, the French Guiana’s, so it was hard to get certain tests that we would've liked,” he continued.
“So this World Cup Qualifying was brilliant, because you felt like you were getting a real fight to the death every single game, and any detail you got wrong from the tactics to the selection, you were gonna get punished for it.”
“I think we had the toughest qualifying, with the 20-odd games, which meant that as a group, we learned to become very adaptable.”
“And I think that's an X factor for us going into this World Cup.”
As a bonus, that tactical flexibility really made it hard for teams to game plan for Canada, too.
It’s no coincidence, for example, that Canada’s wins over the US and Mexico actually both came on the second meetings between the two teams, as Herdman and his staff did well to take what they learned in their first matchups with those teams, before adjusting big time in the second.
In fact, if you look at it statistically, Canada actually picked up 15 points in seven games in which they were playing a team for the second time in the Octo, compared to 13 points in the seven times in which they were playing them for the first time.
What that shows is that when it came to game planning, Canada’s ability to adjust and prepare often set them apart from the other teams in games, allowing them to frustrate their opponents on several occasions across this final round.
Yet, that’s just a reflection of the overall work that they put into preparing for games in this cycle, as they set out with a clear intention of disrupting their opponents' overall rhythm in games.
Thanks to a mix of things that they knew before they started qualifiers, stuff they learned along the way, and some other key lessons that emerged, they just found a way to put that all together, and then went from there.
“When we did an analysis at the end of CONCACAF qualifying, we looked at why we finished top, and we tried to break down the ingredients that led to that winning formula,” Herdman explained. “So there were the things we planned that got us there, and there were things that we had learned on the journey that we added.”
“And I think the tactical excellence is something that we always talked about, to be unpredictable, particularly against the better teams like Mexico’s or the US’s, teams where despite the qualitative advantages that they have in many areas of the pitch, we were able to disrupt their pressing, disrupt their overall rhythm in games.”
“I remember Gregg Berhalter being caught by surprise that Canada just dropped off with a 3-4-3/5-4-1 in our first match in Nashville (a 1-1 draw), as he was expecting a high-intensity, high-pressing game, and his players were getting frustrated because of that, you could sense it.
“Then in the middle of the game, we had an in-game shift, and altered our rhythm to that high-intensity, high pressing game, and through that, we caught them in moments. Then, when we scored our goal, we shifted again.”
“So it was always about making sure that their players, when they felt they were starting to get a rhythm against us, we were able to shift that rhythm, no matter which team we played against.”
Was it conventional? Nope, but in a region where teams are often so clearly defined by the styles they choose to play, it turned out to be the perfect amount of chaos that Canada needed to standout and thrive in, as when they combined that chaos with their strengths, they became a pretty unstoppable force.
“We tried to understand what structure and adaptation would cause the most chaos for an opponent,” he continued. “And what we learned through that, is that coaches said it was difficult to strategically prepare for Canada, because we were a chameleon, one game we were in a 3-4-3, the next game we were in a 5-3-2, and then the next game in a 4-4-2 box. And we were doing that across games, and in games, and then changing the profiles of our players constantly, as well.”
“So against Mexico (at the Iceteca), for example, I'm sure they expected Jonathan David to start that game, and had it in their minds that there was going to be a structure we used, but then we had Jonathan in a ‘finish strong’ strategy off the bench, (instead). So we were doing things a bit unconventionally.”
“When I've studied CONCACAF teams, there's a very formulaic way of going through the process across the board, and as part of our new Canada that the boys bought into, we said that we would do things differently.”
“They put in a shift”: Defensive growth an underrated factor
For all of the talk of Canada’s new tactical profile, however, there is one area of growth that stands out, in particular, when looking back at what allowed them to qualify for the World Cup - the significant improvement of their defensive record.
Once seen as a significant weakness for the team, they managed to prove a lot of people wrong with their performances throughout qualifying, conceding just eight goals in 20 games across the entirety of qualifying, including just seven in 14 Octo games.
Despite not having what some might consider being a ‘tier-one’ defender, (Herdman even controversially referred to his backline as tier three backline in 2019), Canada was able to put that all behind them, all thanks to some key tactical adjustments and some new faces.
From the emergence of Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston and Scott Kennedy, to the growth of regulars such as Steven Vitoria and Doneil Henry, combined with a team-first approach to defending and some strong goalkeeping, it all came together perfectly for Canada in qualifiers, who responded to every strong offensive test in front of them.
“I mean, when you look back at the journey, it was a real growth,” Herdman admitted. “(Before qualifiers), we'd only had three real games that had really tested us up to that point in a two-year period, games where our defence was genuinely getting tested.”
“Those were Mexico at the Gold Cup in 2019, and then the US home and away in Nations League, and (in those games) we were still learning about the partnerships that we had, learning about where Alphonso Davies fit in the team, for example.”
“Now, however, we’ve also had the growth of people like Kamal (Miller). I invested in Kamal very young when he wasn't getting his shot at Orlando in 2019, but we still gave him a shot, or Alistair Johnson, who we also invested in him very quickly in 2021. Then, we invested in people like Steven Vitoria, who had been a bit-part player for Canada and even in the club settings at times. (Through that), we created a culture that I think helped this group feel 20-feet tall and unbeatable.”
You throw in some key tactical shifts, which included a switch to a back three with Johnston playing as a right-sided centre-back at times (a bold move considering he had mostly played as a midfielder and wing back in college and MLS), and it created a perfect storm.
Knowing how good Canada’s attack can be, those defensive improvements paid off big time, helping Canada snatch results that they previously might’ve thrown away due to careless defensive moments (re-watch losses to Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup and the US in 2019 Nations League to get an idea of how so).
“When they collectively came together, we started with a back three,” Herdman continued. “We recognized that qualitatively, you wanted that positional superiority, you wanted numerical superiority, particularly when you played against teams that had $10, $15 and $20 million forwards, like Sheraldo Becker for Suriname, etcetera.”
“We knew we had enough in our attack to score, we knew that we would be able to transition, but we wanted it to grow together to make sure that those results were clean sheet focused first, as we knew that we could score.”
From there, that allowed Canada to expand their defensive flexibility even further, which only pushed them on to another level.
“So over time, we were then able to dispel the myth that we needed a three centre-back system,” Herdman continued. “And you’ve seen us take that step forward in the Azteca with a genuine 4-4-2 against Raul Jimenez, Chucky Lozano, Tecacito Corona, that was a $180 million front three combined, against our back four of Alistair Johnston, Steven Vitoria Kamal Miller, Richie Laryea (approximately worth $8 million at the time, per Transfermarkt).”
Plus, as Herdman notes, credit has to be given to the players and the staff for how that all developed, as their buy-in was a big part of everything coming together.
From long hours spent at camps on the pitch and in the film room discussing all sorts of tactical nuances, to constant calls and continuous research away from camp, they all put in the hours to ensure that this plan would all come together, now making them a flexible unit that is comfortable in playing in either a back three or a back four, having developed a strong familiarity with both set-ups.
“They managed it so well,” Herdman said of his defenders. “So as we watched that, we grew more confidence and experience so that we had the choice and the flexibility to go with a back three or a four, and that’s a credit to the players.”
“They put in a shift in, we worked tactically harder than any team off the pitch, the number of meetings that we had, group and 1 on 1 meetings, sessions spent studying opposing centre forwards as a group, meetings with Jason De Vos making sure that they have their defender information package with the analytics (on their own play).”
“They'll do things before they come into camp, they’ll do things in camp. We made a commitment to be that team that had the best defensive record in CONCACAF, and they did it.”
So let’s just say that if someone were to call a Canadian backline ‘tier three’ now, Herdman would hit back at that, noting that they’re now tier-one players in nearly every distinction based on what they’ve shown, making him excited about what’s to come for them.
“Many people questioned them,” Herdman said. “I think the total value of our back four at times was like $3.5/$4 million against $180 million front lines, so I think we showed that when we get to the World Cup, people are going to start saying that they're tier-one players, they just need to be in the top five leagues in Europe now.”
"We wouldn’t roll out the red carpet anymore”: Becoming hard to play against
There are many ingredients to winning. The tactical battle is key, of course, as is the ability to have individual talent that is capable of taking over games at your disposal, among others.
But while Canada had started to put together a lot of those things, they had one last ingredient that they wanted to ensure they had before becoming this ‘new Canada’ - that CONCACAF toughness.
What is CONCACAF toughness, one might ask? Well, think of chaos, competitive advantages and a burning desire to take advantage of every possible edge to win.
Typically, it’s something that Canada has lacked in the past. There’s a reason why they’ve always struggled heavily on the road, especially in Central America, where there isn’t much that teams and fans won’t do to get a winning edge in games.
This cycle, however, that changed for Canada. Big time.
Fans got a small taste of it in the first two rounds, where Canada navigated some potential trap games with ease, but then, things got taken to a whole other level in the final round.
Starting with ‘drone-gate’, a big controversy between Honduras and Canada over the presence of a drone supposedly magically appearing at Honduras’s practices in Toronto, to Canada choosing to play their November qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica in sub-zero temperatures in Edmonton, Canada didn’t shy away from embracing the CONCACAFiness of this final round.
The #CanMNT vs Honduras game is still over 24 hours away, and we've already had a drone spying crisis, Honduras's coach accusing FIFA of giving Canada biased referees, and Honduras went after Montreal for their handling of Romell Quioto— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) September 1, 2021
CONCACAF. Is. Back.
Along with a new fiery posture that they showed on the pitch, to which they stood up for their teammates every time they got fouled (leading to incidents such as this brawl between Canada and Panama), it showed that this Canadian team was not going to be pushed around as they once used to by opponents.
“We wouldn't welcome teams to Canada, we wouldn't roll out the red carpet anymore,” Herdman said. “Teams tried to come into Canada early at the beginning, one team even thought that they could come and spend seven days and train in our country before a World Cup qualification match, so we found ways to disrupt that.”
“And no team ever came back in early after that, they all made sure they came in very late, because they knew you know they were dealing with a different type of Canada, one that wasn't going to be that country that rolled the red carpet out.”
“What we were just trying to do is send a message that this is the new Canada, we were doing it on the pitch, too, where you'd see our boys sort of stand up in ways that probably the country hadn't normally seen.”
“Of course, they've seen some of that behaviour in hockey games, but not really in football, but we said we were going to act as if we were the top team, and they certainly did that.”
You combine that with the ‘brotherhood’ that they were able to cultivate, which saw the players grow quite close on and off the field, and that became a winning combination for Canada.
Having set out on a mission to become the most dominant Canadian team of a generation, part of that journey was shifting the mentality, which in the end, is just as important as the tactical identity that they’ve now been able to create here.
“It all started with the overarching vision, which was to be the most dominant Canadian team of a generation,” Herdman continued. “That's the mission we set out, and that takes winning to do, we have to win, and finishing atop CONCACAF for World Cup qualifying, that’s the bar set now.”
“It’s like anything, once the sub-two-hour marathon has been set, you know someone else is going to go after that. So we've set up this team for the future generations, and in terms of being dominant, they'll set new goals, and when you set new goals, there is a coach who starts to drive the identity and how you've got to change that so that when we grow, it evolves with the team and their mentality.”
“But when you think of identities, what is consistent from Canada now is it’s a tight team, they’re Mavericks, in flank areas they have that consistent commitment to play in the width, and wear down the opposite side’s rhythms. There is a consistent hunt to regain the ball within three passes, a drive to use three passes to score in our transition moments, and we've been the best team in CONCACAF at that, that's our identity.”
“That will always be the same, but your style of play is a bit different, and the structures that bring out that style of play will be a bit different as well.”
Putting it all together ahead of Qatar:
Now, however, having conquered CONCACAF qualifiers as they had, the next goal is clear - bringing that same mandate and mentality to Qatar.
Of course, they aren’t done in CONCACAF yet, far from it, but until their quests to win the 22-23 Nations League and 2023 Gold Cup resume next year, their focus is firmly planted on shifting their approach to the world stage later this year.
And there, they have their work cut out for them. Again, teams like Belgium, Croatia and Morocco might lack the prestige of a former World Cup winner, but considering that Belgium has consistently been a top-five ranked team in the world for over the last half-decade, Croatia made the 2018 World Cup final and Morocco is a typical force in Africa, the pedigree is there with those opponents.
Plus, with players like Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Luka Modrić (Croatia) and Achraf Hakimi (Morocco) to deal with, among many others, there will be no shortage of dangerous and world-class threats for Canada to have to worry about.
Therefore, while Canada’s unique approach will have worked in CONCACAF, they’ll have to find a way to step it up another level for Qatar, because now, things are going to be completely different.
Despite that, however, Canada isn’t going to shift from their approach. Far from it.
Instead, as they’ve done throughout qualifiers, they’re going to keep shifting and adjusting, and then go from it there.
Having started preparations for their three World Cup opponents as soon as the draw happened on April 1st, they feel that they’ve put together a plan that can give them a chance to catch teams by surprise.
“Well, there are things that we're working on internally,” Herdman said of his team’s World Cup approach. “I mean, that's the stuff I just can't say in public because there is some genuine cloaking going on there.”
“So what we're trying to achieve here, we are trying to do things differently. I mean, when you come up against teams like that, you have to understand that on paper, they're stronger than us.”
“But there are areas where Canada can exploit each one of those opponents. And then we have a foundation, which is this team spirit, this brotherhood that we've created. We feel that we don’t fear these teams, and that's a good starting point, but then you have to have a tactical blueprint that allows these players to go in with a mindset, as the strategy has to support the mindset.”
Along with the talent that his team has, Herdman believes that will really allow Canada to surprise onlookers, further proving their credentials as a rising team globally.
“And the strategy has to be aligned to the skillset of the players,” he continued. “And then ultimately, that mindset can't be about bravado, because when the pressure comes on, it all just falls apart, and that will undermine our strategy and skillset.”
“So when you start to look at it, we know what we've got is some real strength in our players in wide areas, world-class strength. We have some players that I genuinely believe in the way that we are going to try and play in that World Cup, that while they might not be playing in certain leagues that would suggest they're not a Kevin De Bruyne or an Axel Witsel, I think this World Cup is going to reveal that Canada has got genuine tier-one players, as there are some players that are going to shine in that tournament.”
“And again, it's up to me and the leadership group to make sure the tactics are right to allow them to play with no fear, to be brave. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know what our strengths are, and we have to play to them.”
From there, take all of the other factors listed above, along with some of that new-look Canadian spirit, and boom - there’s the recipe that he believes will push his team over the line.
“So, for me, you have your tactical vision,” he continued. “Which is organized and adaptable and to which we've added two components for the World Cup, which will be seen later down the road.”
“Then, we have our tactical identity, an identity which we’ve had to change some elements of to play against tier-one teams, and then we have the style of play, which has to shift as well."
“So now your style of play, and the accents around the patterns of play, have also changed. And then underneath that, there are certain structures that we believe against tier-one teams, are going to be more impactful given the type of players we have, given the style of play, given the change in identity and our tactical vision.”
“So all of those things align to produce the performance, and then further underneath that, is your brotherhood, that’s the trust, the belief, just the f***ing fight for each other, because if that’s strong, all of these things can happen. Without that, the trust, the clarity in all of this, it’s all BS.”
“So we've worked hard on this, we've had a lot of good experiences, where they know they can fight through things, they're resilient, they can come back, they trust each other, so now, if we can fully invest in doing this right, it’ll be about tactical excellence for us.”
“The standards are set now”: Finding the next CanMNT standout
Lastly, with the plan all set out, that leads everyone to the final, and arguably the most important step in the process - player selection. A good plan is nothing if there’s no one to set it into motion with, so in that regard, this is arguably the most important factor.
There, Herdman has plenty of questions to answer ahead of Qatar.
Having used a whole host of players throughout the last 18 months, he has a relatively good idea of who he’ll bring, of course, but with the player pool constantly shifting, he’ll also have to stay on his toes.
Luckily, thanks to a FIFA change, he’ll be able to bring 26 players, alleviating some potential squad selection headaches that a 23-player squad might’ve created for him, but he still has a lot of work to do to select 26 guys, of which will carry the torch in Canada’s long-awaited return to this tournament.
Plus, with Canada set to co-host the men’s World Cup in 2026, that is also something to consider in squad selection, as while his focus is firmly locked on 2022, building for that tournament remains a long-term goal for Canada.
Especially with the rise of promising Canadian youngsters across the globe, of which there are more than ever popping up, it’s something to keep an eye on, as Canada has already slowly been making moves on some of them, calling up the likes of Luca Koleosho (Espanyol), Justin Smith (OGC Nice*) and Lucas Dias (Sporting CP) to various senior and youth camps in the last two years.
Once a forgotten country for many, Canada is desirable to play for now, which will only lead to more players like that emerging in the future. Instead of before, where Canada had to cast a wide net just to get players, those players are now coming to them, showing how much things have shifted.
But while Herdman is keeping a close eye on a lot of those youngsters, of which fans are clamouring to join the Canadian ranks now, he is also cautious of how he approaches that situation, knowing what he already has at his disposal now.
“I think the guys, they’re able to speak more articulately about what it is to play for Canada now,” Herdman said of the rise of interest in Canada. “The opportunity to be that generation that pioneered and experienced so many firsts. And there's nothing better than that as a footballer.”
“Look at a country like Portugal for Stephen Eustaquio, this was the conversation we had, as Portugal, they've done everything, there's not much they haven't experienced as a country, but for Canada, it’s just all new ground, a lot of breaking new ground, and that's what excited him to come on the project.”
“But I think what's changed is just grabbing people for the sake of it, I think that’s something that we've been way more deliberate around in the last year and a half. Like I think when I first took over, you know, I think you know anyone at a club that was at a good level, we were just trying to grab them, look at them and then assess to see who is going to be right.”
“But now, we’re really deliberate in what will trigger a selection in this team, because this is a good f**ing team. I always hear comments about people bringing this player in, and that player in, and I'm thinking for who? For Junior Hoilett? Pff. Tajon Buchanan? Alphonso Davies? Iké Ugbo, who is scoring against PSG? Yeah...”
At the same time, while Herdman’s looking to be patient with who he brings in, that doesn’t mean he isn’t constantly talking with some of those younger players. In fact, that communication is constantly ongoing, as he and his staff are constantly putting in the work to ensure that when the time comes, they’ll have as good of a shot as any at securing the commitment of these youngsters.
“Regardless, the triggers now are if you play U23 level in a top five league or for a top-five team (in a league), you can expect to be on Herdman's radar,” Herdman continued. “And that's the trigger point, look at a player like Theo Corbeanu, for example, who came into our viewpoint very quickly when he started to be effective at Wolves U23. (So now), if you get a first-team call up to preseason, then you can be expecting a phone call from us, and that's the standard now, there are triggers that we look at, in terms of showing future potential as a men's national team player from that trigger.”
“Then, (from there), we go do a deep analysis, we're speaking to the sporting director, we’re speaking to their U23 coaches, their parents, then to the agents, all just to get a feel about where that person is at. And then if they crack the first team, then it's all-out. Then they're going to get a presentation, they're going to get a look at what's required to get to this next level.”
“Look at Luca Koleosho, he was a great example, when he hit the trigger, making his La Liga debut, we knew that from speaking to the club, they were committed to a preseason with him (for 22-23), and we knew a National Team experience would help him get more La Liga experience (down the road).” (Koleosho has already made two appearances with Espanyol in 22-23, suggeting that approach might've worked).
All with an eye on making Canada as strong as possible for a good run at home in 2026, Herdman feels that work will pay off down the road, as Canada slowly continues its shift towards trying to become a soccer country.
It’s a big plan, no doubt, but much like everything Herdman has committed to with Canada, he’ll attack it full-bore.
Having already seen the fruits of his success in this 2022 cycle, it’s intriguing to imagine what 2026 will look like, making it exciting to see where Canada will go from here.
From the talent that will be on the field, to the approach that they’ll take both on and off it, it’s all being carefully crafted, with an eye on setting up this Canadian team not just for now, but for generations to come, too.
“And I've said this from the onset, what we do is by design, not chance,” Herdman continued. “We've done the research, the average number of tier-one players in top-five leagues to get out of group stages at World Cups, the average is typically eight. It's rare that you get out on a minimum of five, with 12 it’s guaranteed.”
“Canada only has three at the moment, Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Iké Ugbo (since then, Stephen Eustaquio has arguably made that jump). And in the last three editions of the World Cup, only one team has progressed from the group stage of each world cup with only three tier-one players. So when you look at it, that's the mission (long-term), to use these opportunities to get those kids that are progressing with tier-one potential into tier-one leagues, so that they’re playing in Champions League, they’re playing in Europa League, they're playing top players, they're training with top players, they're working with top coaches.”
“And that all comes back to this national team, and builds the strength and the competitive mindset to ultimately get to where we want to be, which is competing not only in CONCACAF, but on the world stage, too.”
“So there's a method to this madness, we’ll get questions about this player saying ‘oh, why hasn’t he been called up’, well it’s because he’s playing at this level, at this league, but when they move to that league, that’s the call-up point, that’s the moment, and the career does tell a story. So I'm waiting for those moments to pop, and when they pop, they’ll pop.”
“But when the opportunities arise, we'll also invite players in, January camps, for example, there's been moments where we did it with Charles-Andreas Brym, Zorhan Bassong and Zachary Brault-Guillard, they were in academies at French clubs, top clubs, so we’ll bring in those kids, give them experience, have a look at them, and then get them hungry about our shirt."
"But the standards are set now, this group won't even tolerate it either, they're gonna ask me the hard questions about call-ups, so the standard has got to be here.”
And seeing how Canada was able to qualify ahead of schedule for 2022, it's excited to see what's in store for 2026, making for a fun journey towards then, starting with the landmark moment when they take the field in Qatar, a moment that will live on in the minds of many for generations to come.
Much as they were able to shock the world over the last year-and-a-half, they're now looking to do the same at a bigger stage, showing that this is indeed a 'New Canada', one that is far from done setting the bar as a team and country.
Catch the CanMNT's pre-World Cup friendlies versus Qatar on September 23rd and Uruguay on September 27th LIVE on OneSoccer.