Three months after a disastrous June camp disrupted by a player boycott due to a contract stalemate, one might have expected Canada to come out a bit rusty against Qatar on Friday.
Goals by Cyle Larin and jonathan david in the first 13 minutes dispelled that as the Canadian men secured a comfortable 2-0 win over the World Cup co-host. Perhaps the only criticism might be that Canada, ranked 43rd in the world, could have scored more against 48th-ranked Qatar.
“We knew the first 20 minutes would be tough, given Qatar’s organization and discipline,” said Canadian coach John Herdman. “But I think our players rose to the challenge tonight.”
The Canadians will face more scrutiny on Tuesday when they take on 13th-placed Uruguay in Bratislava, Slovakia.
“It will be a tough test,” Herdman said. “But that’s what we dream of. We have been playing against CONCACAF opponents for four years. All the players have dreamed all their international career (of) playing teams of the stature of Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina. That’s what we expected.
“For us, it’s a cup final against Uruguay, a bit like playing against Belgium or Croatia (who Canada will face in Group F at the World Cup). So there is excitement. But again, we have to temper that with the reality of the quality they have and then we have to put in the work over these next three days.
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Canada’s final World Cup warm-up is Nov. 17 against 24th-placed Japan in Dubai.
Canada controlled large portions of Friday’s game, outscoring Qatar 13-8 (8-2 on shots on target) with 61 percent possession.
Canada wasted little time with Larin scoring in the fourth minute. The Club Brugge striker rose high to head home a Sam Adekugbe cross for his 25th goal, a Canadian men’s record in 53 appearances.
David doubled the lead in the 13th minute after diving Qatar keeper Saad Al Sheeb hit a cross from Kamal Miller, but only to two waiting Canadians. Alphonso Davies fell, losing his footing, trying to reach the ball, but David was there to kick it home for his 22nd goal in 33 games for Canada.
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David, who is under contract with Adidas, covered the Nike logo on the Canada jersey with his right hand as he celebrated the goal. There have been discussions on social media recently about Canada, unlike other teams, not unveiling a new World Cup kit.
Herdman, perhaps diplomatically, said after the game that he didn’t notice the celebration.
Canada came close to scoring a third goal from a free kick in the 88th minute, but Ike Ugbo’s header was saved by the Qatar keeper and Miller’s rebound attempt hit the crossbar.
There was a moment of concern in the second half, with Davies needing treatment after getting tangled up with Ismail Mohammad in the 57th minute. The Bayern Munich star was able to walk away, albeit cautiously, as he made way for a substitute.
“I think he’s fine. He sat on the bench smiling. So I think he’s fine,” Herdman said.
David (Junior) Hoilett, who won his 48th cap, captained Canada in the absence of injured Atiba Hutchinson.
Friday’s match was Canada’s first against an Asian opponent since November 2016, when they lost 2-0 to South Korea.
The Canadians, who open the World Cup game on Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium, used the flanks to attack Qatar’s condensed defence.
Canada had 62 percent possession in the first half. Both teams made changes in the second half with Herdman sending in Richie Laryea, Charles-Andreas Bryn, Ismael Kone, Ugbo, Liam Millar and Mark-Anthony Kaye.
Qatar showed more determination in the second half, but failed to break through the Canadian defence, offering little in attack.
For the Canadians, the European camp is a first meeting since an ill-fated June rally in Vancouver when players refused to play a friendly against Panama due to a contract dispute. The team broke the stalemate to face Curaçao and Honduras in CONCACAF Nations League matches on June 9 and 13. But contract negotiations continue.
Herdman has other injury issues with Club Brugge winger Tajon Buchanan likely to only make the bench for the game against Uruguay if he is healthy. Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry, who suffered a hamstring problem on the eve of camp, is with the team, but action is not expected. His TFC teammate Jonathan Osorio stayed home to deal with “neurological dysfunction” resulting from an elbow to the head during an MLS game in mid-July.
Despite the injuries, Herdman fielded a solid line-up with Miller, Steven Vitoria and Alistair Johnston ahead of goalkeeper Milan Borjan with Adekugbe and Hoilett at the back and Samuel Piette and Stephen Eustaquio in midfield with Davies, David and Larin leading the way. offensive.
Piette was influential in midfield, often joining Eustaquio in stifling Qatar’s attacks.
The Canadian starting 11 entered the match with a total of 428 selections, led by Borjan (65) and Piette (62).
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