Canada returned to its first World Cup in 36 years with a chip on its shoulder. It was time to show the world he could hold his own on the biggest stage in football in Qatar.
However, after three matches in Group F, things did not necessarily go as planned. Losses to Belgium and Croatia and then Morocco on Thursday mean Canada join Qatar as the only two teams to finish with zero points.
After Canada’s run at the 2022 tournament ended, head coach John Herdman and players Alphonso Davies, Alistair Johnston and Sam Adekugbe opened the mixed campaign in Qatar. Building for the future remains a priority objective for the future.
“At the start of the game we didn’t start well,” Davies said in the 2-1 loss to Morocco. “They scored two quick goals and against a team of this quality. Every mistake [you make]they punish you, and they showed it today.
“We got the goal back, we kept fighting, but I guess it wasn’t enough.”
“[Our] first time on this big stage, it’s new for everyone. It’s a different atmosphere, a different quality of play and we just have to get used to it.
According to Johnston, the biggest shock to the system has been absorbing the pressure of playing on football’s biggest stage. The atmosphere alone was an eye-opening experience.
“[The World Cup] is just played at a higher level, the emotions of a World Cup are incredible,” added Johnston. “This crowd was crazy for Morocco. It’s the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever been in. Playing at Azteca still has nothing to do with what we just experienced there.
“[Morocco] was a team that played for its life. They got the result, they left everything there and so did we. Unfortunately, we once again came out on the wrong side of the outcome. But me personally, I learned that ‘Yeah, we belong.’
In their final World Cup match, Canada came within inches of a 2-2 draw and their first-ever point, but Atiba Hutchinson’s header didn’t quite cross the line. It was heartbreaking for everyone on the pitch and on the bench.
“They were two inches away from scoring the first points for Canada. I think everyone thought the ball was going to cross the line. We wanted to, but it didn’t,” Herdman said on the occasion.
“So I think you saw that resilience. You have seen our quality. It’s a Moroccan team that just won the group, and I think we showed that spirit, that Canadian courage that we came here to show.
After losing all three matches in 1986, Canada came away empty-handed. He now joins El Salvador as the only two sides to record six defeats in six World Cup games in the tournament’s history.
When asked if he was disappointed with Canada’s results this time around, Herdman was quick to reassure that he was pretty proud.
“I’m proud. I’m proud of what these guys have shown here. You know, I think you’re always going to walk away from that, and it’s going to sting. But there’s not a game we’re not in. not proud,” he said.
“There is a quality gap at all levels, and we are trying to fill it. This is what we will do, and this is where we will go… We have four years to build. But this is our first step into the great unknown and we have discovered a lot of things as far as this team has quality, we can compete. And we were close.
Adekugbe, who forced an own goal against Morocco, shared the same positive sentiment about the future.
“I think ‘potential’ is the correct word. We showed a lot of good moments in these three games. Obviously we didn’t get the results we wanted, but we can see what we are capable of,” he said. “It’s just about hitting that level more consistently and for 90 minutes.”
“I just think we should remember the memories [and] the results we have obtained. We have [gone] in Mexico we beat the United States and I think ultimately we left a legacy for the young players to carry on… Ultimately we are on our way to a better place and we just ask everyone comes with us.
Looking ahead, Canada now hosts the 2026 World Cup along with the United States and Mexico and has another four years to rebuild its schedule.
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