In their 3rd match of this January ‘Camp Poutine’, Canada was unable to match the offensive output they showed during their first two matches, as they fell by a score of 1-0 to Iceland. Here are how things went down in California.
In a 90 minute game, sometimes pockets of 5 seconds can make all the difference.
Just ask Canada, whos race towards the Hexagonal ahead of the 2022 World Cup CONCACAF qualifying campaign took a huge hit on Wednesday, as they fell 1-0 to Iceland, failing to score in a National Team game for the first time since 2017. After opening 2020 with back-to-back 4-1 victories over Barbados, they were unable to match that same level against Iceland, who defended strongly to preserve a clean sheet.
While Canada’s Hex hopes aren’t quite yet extinguished, they were certainly put on life support in this one, as the point gap between them and 6th place now sits at 13 points. With the team they’re chasing, El Salvador, officially classifying their game against Iceland later this week as a ‘B’ level friendly, meaning that no points will be on the line, Canada lost a valuable opportunity to gain some valuable ranking points with the result in this one.
Iceland started off strong, pressuring Canada with and without the ball, and it paid off early, as they were able to get a few good looks at goal. While they were unable to finish any of their chances, they did test Max Crepeau, forcing the Whitecaps man to make a nice leg save in the 10th minute.
The pressure would prove to pay off for them, as they soon opened the score, shortly after winning a crucial corner in the 20th minute. On the set-piece, they whipped in a dangerous inswinging ball, forcing Crepeau to claw it away, and he was unable to clear it completely, as it fell right to Iceland’s unmarked #5, Eyjolofsson, who tapped home rather easily to open the score.
Canada woke up after the goal, as they started to push Iceland further and further down the pitch, but they were unable to generate any tangible chances. Tesho Akindele came closest, as he latched onto a beautiful Amer Didic diagonal through ball to put him through on goal, but he sent his weak-footed volley well wide of the goal.
Despite this new wave of Canadian bodies pushing forward, Iceland stood strong, countering with assaults of their own. While they weren’t playing with the ball as much as Canada was, they did a great job to create shooting chances, which led to their striker, Finnbogason, to strike the post with a left-footed shot at around the 35th minute, before Brandarson sent a long strike just wide on a long-distance effort of his own.
Leading into half time, it meant that it was time to regroup for Canada, who weren’t bad in the first half, but seemed to lack inspiration, at least on the offensive end. Overall, they defended relatively well, but they just switched off on a couple of moments, which against a team with the quality of Iceland, can prove to be costly over the course of 90 minutes.
Offensively, there was a lot to be desired, especially considering that Iceland was sitting back, inviting on pressure, but with Canada missing many of their usual creative providers, it certainly wasn’t surprising to see them struggle. Be it a substitute, or a change in tactics, they just needed to find that spark, tighten up the shop, allowing them to get back into what was still a very closely-contested game.
Canada came out strong in the second half, creating a couple of half-chances, before half-time entrant, Zorhan Bassong, teed up Jonathan Osorio for a volley, but the Toronto FC man struck his shot right at Iceland’s goalkeeper, Halldorsson. After a lacklustre first half, it was positive to see Canada come out with good intent, as they looked to reverse the 1-0 scoreline.
Unluckily for Canada, Iceland wouldn’t go away easily, as they continued to counter ruthlessly, forcing Les Rouges onto their back foot when they lost possession. When they did have the ball, they were efficient, however, creating some good chances, including a nice Tosaint Ricketts finish that found the back of the net off of an Akindele cross, but it was determined that Akindele was indeed offside in the build-up, nullifying the tally.
Ricketts continued to buzz around the Iceland goal, and came close a few minutes later, as he did well to pluck down an Amer Didic long ball, turning nicely at the edge of the box, but he sent the strike just wide. With a goal seeming imminent, the attacking mentality was positive to see, but it was unsure if Canada was going to hold off Iceland long enough to find their opportunity.
The warning signs continued to come from Iceland, however, with none bigger than the one that came at the 70th minute, as Finnbogason found a foot of space in Canada’s box, and caught the defenders sleeping, striking nicely into the low corner. Fortunately for Canada, Crepeau made up for his earlier mistake, dropping to his right quickly, pushing away the shot for a corner.
And despite Canada coming real close at the end, including a good Charles Andreas Brym strike that came off an inventive ball from second-half entrant, 17-year-old Jayden Nelson, along with a Brym header that glanced over the bar in the 90th minute, Canada would eventually succumb to time.
After putting up a good fight in the 2nd half, they were just never able to really threaten the Icelandic defence, and it resulted in a loss that may prove to be costly in determining Canada’s road towards the 2022 World Cup. It was always going to be tough for them to make it, as they had to be near perfect in order to keep controlling their destiny, but much as things appeared to be back in August of 2019, things are no longer in their hands, as the odds continue to stack up in their quest for the Hex.
Like in the Barbados game, we tracked some stats. Here they are:
(They are not completely accurate, but probably around 95%)
|Player||Goal||Assist||Key Pass||Shots||Tackles||Int + Duals|
|Maxime Crepeau||(4 saves)|
|Charles Andreas Brym||3||3||1|
For Canada, the strong performers came in the heart of the park, with Amer Didic and Kamal Miller putting together strong 90-minute appearances at centre back. From seemingly sucking in every long ball Iceland sent their way, to even jumpstarting a few attacks of their own, the two central defenders were strong for Canada on this evening, and put in a good word to earn more starts in the future.
Further up the pitch, Samuel Piette and Liam Fraser were good at the base of the midfield box, breaking apart several Icelandic attacks, while jumpstarting a few of their own. For a Canada team loaded with midfielders, they put in another strong 90 minutes in this one, putting together a good audition tape for Herdman to consider ahead of bigger games.
Elsewhere, Charles-Andreas Brym was solid, as he was solid once again up front, helping Canada press aggressively. Heading into Olympic Qualifiers, he looks to be an intriguing piece for Canada, who will need goals, with most of their top young attackers unavailable to head down to Mexico.
Off the bench, Jayden Nelson and Zorhan Bassong looked good, giving Canada more attacking intent in the 2nd half. With Canada having 6 substitutes at their disposal, it was surprising they didn’t use more of their young attackers, because as shown by Nelson and Bassong, having energy off the bench wouldn’t have been the worst thing to have as they chased back a goal.
- Bar the goal, and the Finnbogason chance, Canada defended relatively well in the low line once again. The set-piece goal they conceded was tough to see, as it’s been something that has concerned onlookers since last year, as they need to ensure to remain switched on at all times, but besides that, they kept their shop tidy. Considering that they were trying out several new defenders, they found a way to keep things relatively tight, with several players giving a lot for Herdman to think about.
- Offensively, there is a lot to worry about, at least in terms of chance creation, as Canada seemed devoid of ideas in the final third. While a lot of the faces up front haven’t played together much, usually Canada has found a way to make things happen in front of goal these past 2 years, so seeing them play so uninspiring was quite surprising to see. If they’re going to harbour hopes of making it to Qatar, they’ll need to make sure they remain at the offensive levels they’ve shown to be able to reach these past few years, as it’s going to be tough to be defensively perfect all of the time.
- The substitutes left a lot to be desired, at least in how they were executed, as Canada only made 4 of their 6 available moves. You throw in the fact that the 4th sub came in the 90th minute, giving Theo Bair no chance to really influence the game, and it leaves some food for thought for Herdman to think about. With second-half subs, Ashtone Morgan, Zorhan Bassong and Jayden Nelson, all looking lively, it would have been good to see Canada turn to their bench, injecting life into a dull attacking affair. With many of these players still in preseason mode, it’s clear not everyone was ready to have a lively 90 minutes, so it’s too bad to see Canada unable to rectify what seemed like quite easy fixes at surface level.
- Once again, Amer Didic was everywhere, putting together an impressive performance. Don’t be surprised to see him start with the first team soon, especially as he prepares to trial at the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS camp later this month.
It’s going to be an interesting next little period for Canada, as they now need to schedule their friendlies for the upcoming March window. They can make up the point gap if they schedule the right 4-6 games, but with the future of El Salvador’s games looking so murky, it’s hard to see if that will be enough or not.
But either way, scheduling those friendlies should be on Canada’s priority list, as they prepare to undergo World Cup qualifiers in the fall, Hex or not. As seen by this camp, it also gives newer faces a chance to show what they got, which after a year of only competitive games, is something that is needed, especially with all the intriguing names that Canada is able to bring in.
So for now, it’ll be time to lean back and study the game tape from these 3 matches. Heading into crucial qualifying games, there is plenty still at stake, and after learning several valuable lessons over these past 2 years, they’ll want to ensure they’re ready to consistently bring their A-game come September.
As they look to get back to the World Cup for only the 2nd time ever, it’s hoped that those lessons go a long way, as they look to capture this nation ahead of schedule, at least when you consider the upcoming 2026 World Cup that will be on home soil.
Cover Photo by: Liza Rosales/Canada Soccer