Canadian Soccer Team World Cup in Qatar

VANCOUVER — With Canada’s spot at the 2022 World Cup clinched, the men’s national soccer team is looking to polish its game before taking to the field in Qatar.

The team gathered in Vancouver this week, where they will host Panama in a friendly match on Sunday.

The Canadians want to get results and see good performances in the current international window, defender Alistair Johnston said, but they are also working on how they want to play when the World Cup kicks off in November.

“We understand that it’s kind of a case of adapt or die, especially when you’re leveling up,” he said. “So we’re going to try new things. And this is the best place to try them.

“You don’t want to try them in the first game against Belgium. You prefer to try them now and try to fix the problems and loopholes in the system before it comes to that.”

The Canadians know there are only two international windows left for the team to work on their systems before the big tournament begins, said defender Doneil Henry.

Currently ranked 38th in the world, Canada begin their World Cup journey on November 23 against No. 2 Belgium before taking on No. 16 Croatia on November 27 and No. 24 Morocco on November 27. december.

“It’s a quick change knowing how fast the World Cup is approaching,” Henry said. “So come back with the boys to get some rhythm, new ideas, everyone is upbeat and looking forward to some minutes under their belt.”

No. 61 Panama was not initially on the Canadians’ schedule for this international window. Canada was due to face Iran in a friendly match on June 5, but the game drew heavy criticism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying it was “not a very good idea”.

An Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, 2020 shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing 176 people, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

Canada Soccer canceled the game on May 26 and Panama was named as the substitute opponent on May 31.

While the South American team hasn’t clinched a World Cup berth like Iran has, Panama is a familiar foe for the Canadians. The two teams faced off in Panama City at the end of March, with Panama claiming a 1-0 victory as Canada closed out their qualifying campaign.

Canada is 4-6-2 all-time against Panama, including 4-0-0 at home.

“We are happy to have any game for this window,” Canadian forward Lucas Cavallini said. “I mean, every game is going to be preparation for us. And no matter the rival, we’re going to prepare as we want and prepare well for the World Cup.”

At 29, Cavallini has been a long-time national team player, playing 31 games for Team Canada.

The journey to the World Cup has seen the group grow in new ways, he said.

“With each selection, things get better and the team gets stronger. The union is much better, much higher,” he said. “So I’m more than happy to be a part of it. Our country is in a great place right now.

After hosting Panama on Sunday, Canada will kick off the CONCACAF Nations League game against No. 79 Curacao at BC Place on June 9. They will then travel to San Pedro Sula to face the 82nd Hounduras on June 13.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 3, 2022.

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