Canada is set to begin its first World Cup campaign since 1986 on Wednesday, against Belgium at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
The North American side qualified for the tournament after finishing the Concacaf cycle in first place with 28 points from 14 games, finishing ahead of Mexico and the United States. Now, as Canada prepares for its first World Cup match in 36 years, head coach John Herdman insists the team will take every opportunity.
“That’s the opportunity we have here,” Herdman said before their Group F opener. “Coming into a game like this we don’t have much to lose, just a genuine opportunity to make it to our cup final.”
Beyond the underdog tag, the CanMNT players are focused on qualifying for the Round of 16. But it won’t be an easy journey, as Group F boasts Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.
“We’re incredibly excited to make it to the biggest stage in the world, but I just want to be clear that we’re not here just to enjoy or participate. We’re here to get a job done,” said veteran defender Steven Vitoria.
“You know, we believe within our group. So I think, with the quality we have and the brotherhood we have, we can go as far as we want,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio.
Canada failed to advance after the 1986 group stage, losing all three matches to finish fourth behind the Soviet Union, France and Hungary. But this current CanMNT side are determined to make history and are equipped with the talent to do so.
“We believe in what we can do as a team. We have played against many good teams, good players and we trust ourselves. We trust everyone in the team,” concluded 39-year-old Atiba Hutchinson.