After getting through the first 3 matches with relative ease, Canada face their last opponent in this CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup qualifying stage, a plucky French Guiana outfit. Despite taking 9 points from those first three matches, there is still everything to play on this last matchday for as they chase a monumental qualification to the inaugural League A of the Nations League, as well as an equally important qualification to the Gold Cup. They have decided to come to Vancouver for this one, returning to the stadium that became their home during the last World Cup qualifying cycle, looking for a strong crowd to boost them to achieve the goals they had set out when this campaign had begun last September. They come into this one without some big names, with Alphonso Davies and Scott Arfield missing out with minor injuries, but they have amassed a wealth of attacking options that should be more than enough to push them through.
CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying Record: 3-0-0, +14 Goal Differential
Coach: John Herdman
Canda comes into this one as favourites, having done very well in their first three matches as mentioned. They started off with a bang, dispatching a US Virgin Islands with ease, following it up with a comfortable home win against Dominica and then a gutsy road win against St Kitts and Nevis. They have yet to concede and have a wealth of attacking options that can cause damage playing at home for this one. They will push hard for the victory, as John Herdman has shown no fear to go after smaller sides, putting out all of his stronger attacking players and going for large scorelines. While the goal differential won’t have as much of an influence if they are able to win this one, look for his side to avoid complacency and put no doubt in the minds of fans with a positive result.
Players to Watch:
The young Canadian has impressed so far, picking up 3 goals in his first 3 caps for Canada. Along with his impressive form for his parent club in Genk, he has shown that he will be a key player for this country for many years to come. His name has kind of fallen under the radar compared to other players, but he is starting to get the recognition that he is due. He is very versatile and is able to play all 3 attacking positions along with an attacking midfield role, giving him the chance to feature in many ways depending on how Herdman looks to put out his side.
The Premier League winger has done well this season, starting regularly for a team deep in a relegation battle in Cardiff. He has earned the trust from one of the legendary managers in the Premier League, the veteran Neil Warnock, showing his versatility in a more defensive system. He has fallen under the radar with all the new young players brought in, but he is still a trusted veteran, and at the still young age of 28, he still has quite a bit to give. It is unclear where exactly he will fit in with this Canada side, but he is a good option to have along with all the other offensive weapons that they have to choose from in their arsenal.
Doneil Henry has been a polarizing figure for a long time, from his days at Toronto to his move over at West Ham and his first season back in MLS last year. He finally appears to have established himself and looks to be a key option for a squad a bit lacking at the back compared to other positions. He has finally started to grasp some consistency in his game, a key trait for Centre Backs as it can be one of the toughest positions in football. Be it with Derek Cornelius, Manjrekar James or David Edgar, Henry will look to stabilize the backline with the attributes that he brings. The attacking system that new Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos has brought in will give him the chance to touch the ball a lot, which Herdman will likely look to use when Henry is with the national team.
The last of our players to watch for this match, Hutchinson is a veteran that has been in the Canadian National team fold for over 16 years. He has shown that he still has the legs at age 36, regularly starting in Turkey and remaining a fan-favourite there. He has been around for a lot of lows in this program and because of that he has been overlooked despite being one of the biggest stars this program has ever had. Keep an eye on him and appreciate what he brings before he is gone, as his future with the National Team is in doubt as he contemplates retirement. With the strong attacking threats around him, he will stabilize the defensive side of things, but he does fancy going forward at times.
What they’re saying:
“I’ve said this all along, there’s a lot of depth in our forward line, so when one goes down there’s many capable of stepping up with quality”
“There’s some young players like Jonathan David, we’ve also got our staples in Johnathan Osorio, Sami Piette, Milan Borjan (…)we’ve got some real class in the team”
“I think all of them were developed in the club systems here (…) and then came through the clubs (…) we’ve developed players, the clubs are doing a good job (…) (players) they’ve found their way through”
“French Guiana are a difficult opponent (…) they were hard work, they will be defensively resilient (…) try and hit us on the counter (…) for us we’ve got to control what we can control which is how we are going to play. (…) we’ve got more quality than them (…) rest comes down to us”
“I think it’s critical for our program if we wanna progress to 2022, we have to get that game time, but more importantly we have to go to some of these away venues where in these countries its life or death, and we’re gonna feel that intensity”
“It’s been pretty well so far (…) so far intensive training, and we’ve just been working hard to get ready for the game. We’re ready, but we still have some days to come, we just have to keep working, to get fully ready for the game”
“It shows a lot, it shows that hard work pays off (…) if you stay consistent you get your chance to play (…) its important for a player because (it’s not ideal) if you’re working hard and not getting the chance to play “
“When I come here, it’s like my second family, I’m very excited to see the players and play with them and represent my country”
“From the first camp I’ve had here, you can see the progression, it’s immense, we can see there is more quality, everyone’s sharper, they know what to do”
“I’d like to say I’m a technical player, I like to score goals, take on players 1 v 1, I just like to enjoy the game (…) my preferred position is striker but obviously in Belgium I play as a 10, 8, also on the wings
French Guiana are a hard outfit to judge, as they could have such a strong team if they were an actual country instead of a French Colony, as many of the best players born in Guiana end up on France (such as Thomas Lemar). Because of that, their calibre can be lacking at times, with most of their best players plying their trade in France, uninterested by the prospects of being called-up, and not being able to participate in any FIFA sanctioned event, such as World Cup Qualifiers, hindering their chances to improve as a nation. They can still provide good teams, but they are a hard one to judge. They have taken 6 points from 3 matches, and can still qualify to the Gold Cup after giving Canada a decent match last time they met, in that competition 2 years ago.
Where to Watch:
This one will be broadcast once again on TSN and RDS, giving a lot more people a chance to watch compared to the earlier matches in the competition. If you are in the Vancouver area, try and get tickets as there should be some right until matchday, so if you have nothing to do on a Sunday definitely go and check it out. This match will be key for the development of the program, as a victory would go a long way to ensuring competitive matches against top teams in the continent, a win for a team that has not had many of those over the years. The Voyageurs will bring a good atmosphere and Herdman will put out a good team, so definitely try to not miss this one!