Given that the last time Canada was playing in a World Cup Finals was almost four decades ago, those that are excited to see the country take to the field in the upcoming edition in Qatar this winter would be forgiven if they were unable to wait for too much longer.
Indeed, the last time the Maple Leafs appeared at a FIFA World Cup was back in 1986 when it was held in Mexico. In fact, up until now, it was the only appearance that the nation had ever made at this iconic tournament, thus really helping to build excitement around the country.
Canada has star players that could help the nation enjoy a successful tournament.
However, while there is a buzz around the fact that it will be the first appearance in 34 years, others will be excited because of the quality of the players in the squad that are likely to head to Qatar this November for this sports competition.
While no one is expecting Canada to be challenging for the FIFA World Cup, there is an element of confidence around the country that they could be in a position to spring a few surprises in the Group Stage, with the nation set to compete in a tough Group F.
The Canadians have already been written off by many because they are in a Group of Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco, with each of the nations set to be faced having plenty of previous tournament experience and quality on the field in almost every single position.
Nonetheless, a few Maple Leafs could make a world of difference, and really put the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to matchday in Qatar…
Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David are Canadian superstars!
Of course, if you take a look at the Canadian squad and the group of players that manager John Herdman can potentially call upon, then you might notice that there are two names that could make all the difference in the Group Stage of this year’s 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Naturally, the first name that many will immediately point out is Alphonso Davies, with the FC Bayern man being a game star and one of the most exciting and talented players ever represented the Canadian national team.
The versatile left-sided player – who can play as a left-back or a winger – has already been able to accomplish so much in his career despite still only being 21 years old. There is plenty of hope on his shoulders regarding the nation’s chances.
Given his experiences with the Bundesliga club, though, and the fact that he has been able to win a number of matches and trophies across some of the biggest tournaments including the UEFA Champions League, it is perhaps hardly a surprise that so many are of the opinion that he could help the national team progress through Group F, with many also thinking about him as a potential betting opportunity for the tournament.
Indeed, with World Cup betting for Qatar 2022 now possible for many Canadians around the country, many have highlighted the experienced 21-year-old as a potential prop bet as they feel he can make a huge difference with his ability.
Some may decide to place bets on things such as his ability to help the team keep a clean sheet, concede as few goals as possible, create a goal, or even score one or two in the upcoming group matches, although those that are thinking about goals being scored might want to consider Jonathan David.
The 22-year-old forward has been incredible in his short career thus far and is already on the verge of catching up with all-time leading scorer Cyle Larin for the most goals scored for his country. David has 22 goals so far, whereas Larin has 25.
While both strikers will be key for the national team to progress from Group F, many will be hoping the youngster is able to continue his red-hot form as he has started the beginning of the Ligue 1 season with LOSC Lille in the perfect way.
David has already managed to net a total of nine goals thus far this season, which is more than Paris Saint-Germain trio Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and Neymar JR. Of course, if he can bring this deadly touch and form with him to Qatar, Canada will be feeling rather confident.
What are the realistic expectations for Canada in Group F?
As mentioned already in this article, Canada will take on Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco (in that order) in Group F, thus making life potentially difficult for the Maple Leafs in their quest to advance from the Group Stage and play in the knockout rounds of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
They are ranked the lowest of each of the nations heading into the tournament this winter, with each of the three teams having played in numerous editions over the years. Furthermore, the fact that they will play the two European sides first could make things extremely difficult, as they could end up losing both of their first two games, thus making it incredibly challenging for them to qualify with just one game remaining.
The Red Devils are considered to be among the top footballing nations, while Croatia were able to get to the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup before being beaten by France. However, with players such as Davies and David leading the line, anything can happen on a soccer pitch!
Regardless of whether Canada will be able to progress from Group F this winter and play in the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, fans will undoubtedly be excited to see the national team compete on the field in Qatar.
Indeed, it would be easy to suggest that Davies and David are going to be key players for the Maple Leafs. Still, everyone is going to need to have to play their roles perfectly if they are to enjoy a successful competition, rather than being in the Middle East to make up the numbers.
Netherlands, Senegal advance out of Group A after wins on final match day
Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly, right, celebrates with teammates scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup group A soccer match between Ecuador and Senegal, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (Francisco Seco/AP)
AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly put his team into the last 16 of the World Cup by volleying home the winner in a 2-1 victory over Ecuador on Tuesday.
Koulibaly scored three minutes after Moises Caicedo had evened the score at 1-1.
In a must-win match for the African champions, Senegal took the lead after a first-half penalty by Ismaila Sarr. Caicedo scored his goal in the 67th.
At 1-1, Ecuador would have advanced from Group A and Senegal would have been eliminated.
The Netherlands beat Qatar 2-0 in the other match to win the group. Senegal finished second while Ecuador and Qatar were eliminated.
Senegal last advanced from the group stage at the 2002 World Cup, when the team reached the quarterfinals in its tournament debut.
Netherlands 2, Qatar 0
AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — The Netherlands finished off the worst showing by any World Cup host nation by beating Qatar 2-0 on Tuesday.
The Dutch advanced to the round of 16 by winning Group A while the Qataris, who were already eliminated, became the first host to lose all three of its group matches at soccer’s biggest event.
Cody Gakpo put the Netherlands ahead midway through the first half with his third goal in as many matches and Frenkie de Jong doubled the advantage five minutes into the second half.
The Netherlands is a three-time runner-up at the World Cup, and also finished third in 2014, while Qatar was making its tournament debut.
The Dutch failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The Netherlands finished with seven points at the top of the group. Senegal, which beat Ecuador 2-1 in the other group game, advanced in second place with six points. Ecuador was eliminated with four points and Qatar ended with zero.
The attendance at Al Bayt Stadium, which also hosted Qatar’s loss to Ecuador in the tournament opener, was given as 66,784 — nearly at full capacity. There were small pockets of orange-clad Netherlands supporters, and Qatar fans behind one of the goals who chanted in unison and jumped up and down.
At one point during the second half, Qatar fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag that said “Free Palestine” on it.
In the 26th minute, Gakpo took control outside the area, dribbled forward and unleashed a powerful side-footed shot between two defenders that entered inside the right post.
Gakpo became the fourth Dutch player to score in three consecutive World Cup games after Johan Neeskens (1974), Dennis Bergkamp (1994) and Wesley Sneijder (2010). He also became only the second player to open the scoring for his team three times in the same group stage after Alessandro Altobelli for Italy in 1986.
De Jong’s goal came when he sprinted forward uncontested to knock in a rebound from close range following a shot from Memphis Depay.
A possible third goal for the Netherlands by Steven Berghuis was waved off following a video review for a handball in the buildup.
Berghuis then hit the bar in added time.
While the Netherlands dominated the possession and created many more chances, Qatar did push forward on occasion and there was a nervy moment for the Dutch when goalkeeper Andries Noppert had trouble collecting a long-range shot from Ismael Mohamed after Gakpo’s goal.
Gakpo drew level with France standout Kylian Mbappé and Ecuador veteran Enner Valencia atop the tournament scoring chart.
For club and country in all competitions this season, Gakpo has been involved in 35 goals in 29 appearances with 17 goals scored and 18 assists.
That should make the 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven forward the target for an expensive transfer in the upcoming months.
‘We came to make history’: Canada hoping to achieve more firsts at World Cup
UMM SALAL, Qatar – Even if Canada can’t advance to the knockout stage, a strong finish to the World Cup will have lasting ramifications.
Thursday’s game against Morocco simultaneously means nothing from a Canadian perspective, but the players know that it’s imperative that they close out the tournament by achieving another first.
“We came here to the World Cup to make history,” said Alphonso Davies after training on Tuesday. “First game didn’t go our way, we played well but we didn’t get the three points we wanted. I’m happy to put my name in the history books [versus Croatia], we showed the quality but definitely, in this third game, we want to finish with three points.”
“This group has been chasing and reaching history throughout this journey,” stated midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “There’s a lot of records that were broken and we’ll continue going on that journey.”
It’s vitally important that Canada doesn’t close out the World Cup with a whimper. Sure, losing the first two matches and ending any hopes of reaching the knockout stage is a disappointment, as Osorio pointed out, but every casual or hardcore fan will remember this tournament a lot more fondly if it ends on a high.
“We do believe that we are good enough to pass through to the next round,” said Osorio. “Unfortunately the results didn’t go our way but I think we put together two pretty good performances.”
In fairness to Canada, the final 25 minutes of the first half in the Croatia defeat were horrific. But they responded well after halftime until Andrej Kramaric completed his brace.
Morocco won’t be an easy test, either, having drawn Croatia and beaten Belgium to line itself up for a possible appearance in the last 16.
But there’s no doubt that Canada’s first appearance at a men’s World Cup in 36 years will be a boon for the sport.
It starts with the players. Alistair Johnston is close to joining Scottish champions Celtic, who will participate in the Champions League if it goes back-to-back in the Premiership. Ismael Kone has been linked to several clubs in Europe as well.
“Each and every guy on this team has the potential to play in the top five leagues in the world,” said Davies.
“The quality we have in this team is tremendous. I feel that is definitely showing itself in their abilities on this stage.”
Plus there are the future stars of tomorrow who will be even more motivated to pursue soccer as a sport having seen their heroes square off against the best in the world.
“We’re hoping that the dream of the Canadian kid starts to evolve,” said Osorio. “It’s not a dream of making the World Cup. It’s a dream of getting past the first round, getting to the semifinals, getting to the final and someday winning the World Cup, why not?”
Scoring the first goal in men’s national team history at a World Cup will go a long way toward achieving that goal. A win over Morocco to cap off the first appearance in 36 years would be even greater.
From there, strong showings at the 2023 Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup will only prepare the team for a historic World Cup at home in 2026.
World Cup Iran-US: Why Iran gave the US players flowers in 1998
Amid harsh barbs and heated geopolitics, the last World Cup match-up between Iran and the United States began with an unlikely gesture – bouquets of white flowers.
The flowers, Iran’s coach later said, were meant as a symbol of peace ahead of the 1998 showdown in France.
Two decades later, political tensions were again high ahead of the Iran-US game in Qatar.
The previous match, held in Lyon, came 20 years after diplomatic relations between the two nations were severed as a result of the storming of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and subsequent 444 day hostage crisis.
Just one month before kick-off, the US State Department labelled Iran the world’s “most active” state sponsor of terrorism, while several high-level Iranian officials kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-US rhetoric.
Despite the tensions evident in the halls of the United Nations and in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s players – led by California-based manager Jalal Talebi – decided to start the match with a signal that the only competition between the two would be on the pitch.
“We decided to make something special,” Mr Talebi said in an oral history of the match produced by ESPN.
“Let us go inside and give them nice flowers to say that we are here for peace. We are not here for fighting or anything.”
The US team reciprocated, giving their opponents US Soccer Federation (USSF) pennants. Together, the squads posed for a group picture, with many of the players smiling ahead of the high-pressure match.
“I thought that was great,” Cobi Jones, then a midfielder for the US team, said in the ESPN report.
“It’s just like a sign of like sport trumping politics and all that. That was very important and having the mixed photo was great.”
The days leading up to the World Cup rematch on Tuesday between the two teams were once again marked by tensions, coming amid widespread anti-government protests in Iran and just after the USSF removed the emblem of the Islamic Republican from the flag it posted in online graphics.
The pictures were later deleted, and US manager Gregg Berhalter apologised, saying that “sometimes things are out of our control” and that he and the US team were only focused on football.
The US team went into the match hoping to avoid a repeat of the 1998 game, which ended with a 2-1 victory for Iran, though both countries were eliminated from the tournament after the game.
Alexi Lalas, a Fox Sports commentator who was a member of the 1998 team, told the Associated Press that the current US team would be well advised not to ignore the wider geopolitics surrounding the current match.
“Understanding the importance of this game, not just from a soccer perspective but from a cultural perspective, I think is crucial for the United States,” he said, addressing what would motivate the US on the pitch.
The US-Iran match in Qatar ended 1-0 in the Americans’ favour after a goal from Christian Pulisic in the 38th minute.
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