It’s time for fans to do as head coach John Herdman asked and trade in their European or South American soccer jerseys for Canadian ones when the men’s team returns to the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Drawn in Group F, Herdman will lead Canada against Belgium in their first group game on Wednesday before taking on Croatia and Morocco.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the monumental clash in Qatar.
ALPHONSO DAVIES IN FULL FORM
Canadian fans can breathe a sigh of relief on the eve of their first World Cup match in 36 years after Herdman confirmed star player Alphonso Davies is back to full fitness.
The Bayern Munich defender suffered a hamstring injury on November 5 and has been unavailable since.
Playing both attack and defence, Davies often floats up the pitch thanks to his blistering speed, is a vital leader in the squad and, in particular, the face of Team Canada following their impressive rise in Europe.
The question now is whether the 22-year-old will make a smooth return after being sidelined for two and a half weeks.
On Tuesday, Herdman admitted that Davies, as well as Stephen Eustaquio (who pulls the strings in Canada’s midfield), previously injured, are expected to start against Belgium.
First-choice goalkeeper Milan Borjan will also appear after suffering an abdominal problem. This news is important for Canada’s defense as backup goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau is not in Qatar after breaking his leg earlier this month.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada’s first game in Group F is arguably their most difficult, as they take on second-place Belgium. Even with his “Golden Generation” aging, that doesn’t mean he can write off the Europeans.
from real madrid Thibaut Courtois, the reigning winner of the Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper, will be tough for forwards Cyle Larin and Jonathan David to beat. Canada must also shut down Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who is expected to dictate control of the ball.
Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, however, will not appear in the match after failing to fully recover from injury, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez confirmed on Tuesday. For his part, Real Madrid striker Eden Hazard will captain the team and will start the match.
So if you’re a new soccer fan thanks to Canada’s impressive qualification for Qatar, notable names to watch out for are Davies, Eustaquio, Larin and David, as well as defenders Alistair Johnston and Sam Adekugbe on the wings, plus the leadership. of captain Atiba Hutchinson in midfield.
Heading into the clash, Canada have two wins, one draw and two losses in their last five games. The most notable result was a 2-1 win over 24th-ranked Japan as the last warm-up game for Qatar.
Meanwhile, Belgium also have two wins, one draw and two losses to their name. Notably, both losses were from their last two warm-up games before Qatar against the Netherlands and Egypt.
ALL EYES ON THE REFEREE
The whistle man between Belgium and Canada will be referee Janny Sikazwe.
The 43-year-old Zambian officiated during the 2018 World Cup but has recently become known for controversial events during an Africa Cup of Nations match in January.
Sikazwe blew the final whistle after just 85 minutes instead of 90 and then blew it early again in the 89th minute, bringing the match to a premature end.
ROAD TO THE KNOCKOUTS
Canada must finish in one of the top two places in Group F to advance to the round of 16, which will prove to be a difficult test.
Earning three points from a win or one from a draw against Belgium would significantly increase Canada’s hope of survival.
However, even with a loss, the 41st ranked team could move on depending on subsequent results. In previous tournaments, teams have reached the round of 16 with just four points in total.
The World Cup is often wide open with surprises galore (as seen on Tuesday when the 51st-ranked Saudi Arabia stunned third-placed Argentina). Anything can really happen in Group F.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR CANADA?
A 36-year long wait for a return to the Men’s World Cup is almost over, and a country full of soccer fans, new and old, will be glued to the screen watching Herdman’s team try to achieve the unthinkable.
Speaking at pre-game press conferences, the head coach and players said they will not shy away from pressure and will instead do what they do best; play their game the way they know they can.
Forward Ike Ugbo and defender Steven Vitoria highlighted in particular the desire to be respected on the biggest stage in the world, while Herdman insisted that he is a new awakening for Canada at this time.
The only thing fans can keep in mind will be Canada’s first goal in the men’s World Cup. During the 1986 edition of the tournament, the team failed to score in all three games.
If this new generation can put the ball in the net against the world’s second-best team on Wednesday and potentially hold their own in their first World Cup clash in 36 years, it could kick off a historic week of soccer.
HOW TO SEE
Before the game, CTV and TSN will have a three-hour special preview starting at 11 am EST/8 am PST.
The game officially begins at 2pm EST/11am PST.