Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team is getting set to play in Edmonton next week, where they’ll contest two massive CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. Here’s how Canada’s starman, Alphonso Davies, who happens to be from Edmonton, is feeling ahead of these games, of which he’s been looking forward to for a very long time.
It promises to be a homecoming to remember.
Over 8 years since they last set foot in the city, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team is getting set to return to Edmonton later this month, where they’ll host Costa Rica and Mexico in a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers.
All part of the ‘Octagonal’, the final round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifiers, these games are massive for Canada, who are about to reach the halfway point of the Octo this window, where they currently sit 3rd out of 8 teams, putting them in a vaunted World Cup qualification spot for now.
As they look to get back to the World Cup for the first time since 1986, they’re well on track to meet that goal at the moment, and they’ll look to continue their journey towards trying to make a reality in these games.
Because of that, these are some massive games for Canada, who could take some huge strides towards making the big dance with a pair of wins here, and they’re well aware of that.
So seeing that, they chose to take these pair of games to Edmonton, a city that hasn’t seen Canada’s Men’s National Team since a friendly vs Costa Rica in 2013, and based on the initial ticket response, the city is happy to have them back, looking well on pace to get 40 000+ fans into the seats for both games, with a chance for a sellout (60 000) so far looking like a possibility for both matches.
But that’s not a surprise for those who know Edmonton. This might be their first chance to host the Men’s National Team in nearly a decade, but they did get to host a few key Women’s National Team games since then, including their opening game at the 2015 World Cup, which was played in front of 53 000 screaming people, most of them Canadian.
When Canada comes to town, out come the Edmontonians, and Canada is banking on them bringing the noise to this camp, giving them a distinct home-field advantage.
“I think the experience is going to be amazing,” Canada’s Alphonso Davies told reporters on Thursday. “I witnessed it firsthand with the Women’s World Cup, that atmosphere was electric, and for us, we’re hoping it’ll be the same, and we know it will be as Edmonton never fails to support their teams.”
And speaking of Davies, these games will also be massive for him, as he’ll also be making a homecoming of sorts during this camp.
Having grown up in Edmonton, where he lived until he was 13 years old, this will actually be the first time that he gets to play in the city since becoming a professional, which is something he’s been looking forward to doing for a while now.
Considering that since he left the city, he’s not only grown into one of the best players in the country, but now the world, with a trophy cabinet that includes honours such as the Bundesliga, Champions League and a World XI plaque, among others, this is a long-overdue homecoming for him, one that he’s been champing at the bit to participate in.
“Yeah, for me, it puts a smile on my face every time that I hear that we’ll be playing in Edmonton in front of 40 000+ people,” Davies admitted with a smile. “Over the years that I’ve been in Edmonton, I think I’ve been in the stadium there like 3 times in my whole life, so to now being able to go to the stadium and play in front of the Edmontonians, it just brings joy to me.”
But at the same time, while these games are going to certainly be a celebration of sorts, for a multitude of reasons, there is still some important business for Canada to take care of on the pitch, and it’s important that they don’t lose sight of that.
Thanks to a big win over Panama in the last game of the October window, they’ve now put themselves in a good position through 6 games of the Octo, but they now have the chance to put themselves in an even better spot, especially considering that they’re playing 2 teams that sit near them in the standings.
Now, having put themselves in the driver seat when it comes to their World Cup qualification hopes, the last thing that they’ll want to do is to throw that away, so while Canada will look to enjoy their stay in the city, they do want to leave Edmonton with 6 points in their back pocket.
“Yeah, for me personally, it’s going to be a homecoming game, ever since I left Edmonton, this will be my first time training and playing in front of the city,” Davies explained. “As for us, though, these 2 games are really important, it really sets us up (nicely) if we can get these six big points, 3 in each game, that’d be amazing for us.”
“We know that it’s not going to be easy, especially with it being Costa Rica and Mexico, those two teams are good teams, we know that, these games are big for us, but having the momentum from the last game in Toronto against Panama, it’s a big step for us, and we want to keep that momentum and carry it into these 2 games coming up.”
And you can tell that he means it, as that business-first mentality runs through the team, starting with head coach, John Herdman, going all the way through the rest of the roster, and that ruthless attitude also happens to actually be the reason these games will be played in Edmonton, too.
Yes, the chance to give a city who has shown up for their National Team’s in the past was part of the plan, but with Canada playing just 2 games this window, both at home, they could’ve chosen to play these games literally anywhere.
Instead of choosing a more comfortable location, though, such as a Vancouver or a Toronto, they went with Edmonton, which for those who know how the city gets in the winter, is about as far from comfortable at this time of year as you can imagine.
So considering that an early look at the forecast for these games already suggests that below-freezing weather and snow could show up to the party, you can see why they’re choosing to do this, as they’re doing their best to make sure that their opponents are uncomfortable, even if it comes at the cost of their own comfort.
In CONCACAF, teams go out of their way at every chance to make their opponents uncomfortable when they host games, so Canada thought ‘why shouldn’t we do the same?’, hence the choice to make these games happen.
“(Yeah), the weather is going to be a challenge,” Davies admitted. “Especially for us Canadians, but especially for the Costa Ricans and Mexicans, it’ll be a challenge for them, so I mean it’s going to be a good game, and it’s going to be cold as well, but we as Canadians, we’re used to it, so hopefully the weather plays a part in our favour.”
At the same time, though, it’s not as if Edmonton is a second-rate city just known for the cold. They’ve hosted several marquee sporting events in the past, including those aforementioned World Cup games and some pretty high-profile hockey tournaments, so while the weather will be a bit frosty, it’ll certainly be a comfortable visit for whoever chooses to make the trek over.
And that’s what Edmonton is setting out to do by hosting these games. With them being one of the host cities for the 2026 World Cup, which Canada is co-hosting with the United States and Mexico, this will also be a chance for them to show FIFA what they’ll be getting when the world comes to the city in 5 years time, making it a test run of sorts.
Of course, they’d love to host these games in any circumstance, but that this is also a chance for them to start preparing for 2026 most certainly only adds to the stakes of this game, and knowing that, Edmonton is looking to show up big.
Those games could end up being huge for the future of the sport in the country, and they’re well aware of that, knowing that what happens in that tournament could impact generations and generations of Canadians to come.
“Thinking that Canada is going to host World Cup games, it just puts a smile on my face,” Davies said. “It’s not just for the generation now, it’s for future generations, for players that will play in this 2026 World Cup games, they’ll tell their kids, and the kids will tell their kids. It just sets us up for a lot more, something bigger than just 2026, it’s something that’s going to inspire generations and generations of young footballers.”
But of course, while those involved in that process will keep their eyes on the future, Canada is trying not to look that far ahead, because while it’ll be nice for them to host in and play games in 2026, they still have a chance to participate in 2022, first.
This is their best chance in decades at making it that far, and people are starting to realize that, which was shown in their last home game in October, which was the best attended Canadian Men’s National Team game in Toronto, ever, and so far based on the strong interest in tickets for these Edmonton games, that interest is clearly continuing to grow.
Always known for being a hockey country, this Canadian Men’s National Team is truly starting to turn heads both inside and outside of the country, and while there is still work to do, there’s no better way than to accelerate that process than to make a World Cup.
And Davies is well aware of that.
One of the top players on one of the top clubs in the world, Bayern Munich, there is no doubt that he can play this sport, but even he isn’t immune to jokes from his teammates that he comes from a place more known for hockey than soccer, of which he’s doing his darndest best to change.
“It’s funny, because all of those guys play for (top) European countries, and they go to all of these different tournaments and stuff, and sometimes the jokes they make, they’re jokes, I understand that, but for me, sometimes I take it personally,” Davies said with a laugh.
“And every time I go back home, I just want to prove to them that we’re getting better and better each and every time we play football, and that’s why for me, the goal is to make it to a World Cup, and hopefully play some of my teammates in the World Cup, and show that we can compete with them as well.”
So because of that, Canada is going to look to continue their quest to extinguish that narrative in this camp, keeping on the right track towards their main goal in the process.
For this team, one filled with marquee players such as Davies, Jonathan David, Stephen Eustaquio and Cyle Larin, among others, a chance of a lifetime sits just around the corner now, and it’s just up to them to go and grab it, something that they can inch closer towards doing in the coming weeks.
Long forgotten in the world’s game, Canada is looking to remind onlookers what they’re capable of on the pitch, and there is no better way to do that than to capture the world’s attention with some big wins, continuing their arduous journey towards the promised land.
“We want to show people that we can play football,” Davies explained. “Because not a lot of people see Canada as a footballing country, they prefer to say that Canada is a hockey country, but we want to change that.”
“And that’s what we’re trying to do by making it to the 2022 World Cup.”
Up Next: Canada vs Costa Rica, Friday, November 12th, 2021, 18:05 PDT, 21:05 EDT (Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton)