Just a few years ago, the idea of the Canadian men’s national team qualifying for the 2022 World Cup seemed abstract at best.
Les Rouges’ only previous appearance in world football’s biggest tournament came back in 1986, when they returned home from Mexico without a point or goal against the Soviet Union, France and Hungary.
But a revolution has taken off in Canadian men’s soccer, spearheaded by English coach John Herdman, who first took charge of the CanMNT in March 2018. In just four years, he has made the Canadian dream a reality, with his side opening up their world Cup campaign against Belgium on Wednesday.
“He told us the goal in the very first meeting — which was to qualify for the World Cup. He said it then and there,” Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio said of Herdman (via TSN).
“He had the vision long before anyone else did. Nobody there was thinking about 2026. We were all focused on the next thing right in front of us – which was the chance to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.”
With a star-studded attack featuring the likes of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Canada are not to be underestimated in Qatar. But the last time the nation made it to the World Cup, Herdman was a 10-year-old boy living just outside Newcastle in northern England.
The reality of what he has achieved has yet to really sink in.
“I still have moments where I pinch myself, like when we arrived in Doha here,” Herdman said.
“It’s going to be one heck of a ride,” he added. “I’ll be rubbing shoulders with world-class coaches like Roberto Martinez. And for me, that’s where I want to be – on the razor’s edge, letting the people of Consett, County Durham, know that anything is possible. Anything is possible. Possible.”
Already an icon in Canada, Herdman is sure to make himself an honorary Canadian if he helps deliver the CanMNT’s first-ever World Cup points, with games against Croatia and Morocco following Wednesday’s opener.
Read more about Canada’s World Cup campaign:
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