Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament — Match #4 Canada vs. El Salvador March 19, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. ET Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico Watch Live:

The “Road to Tokyo” begins for Canada’s under-23 men’s team on Friday evening when it faces El Salvador in its opening game of the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament. Coach Mauro Biello’s 20-player squad has to hit the ground running down in Mexico (site of the tournament), as there is very little room for error – only two nations from the eight-team field competing in Mexico will qualify for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Canada’s final match of the group stage against Honduras is its toughest, so a strong start to the tournament against El Salvador is a must if the Reds are to advance to the knockout round. A loss or dropped points in their opening game would hamper their chances of Olympic qualification, and would make their group stage finale against favoured Honduras much more difficult. The last time Canada participated at the Summer Games was in 1984 in Los Angeles when it reached the quarter-finals, so Biello’s side will be looking to end the country’s lengthy Olympic drought down.

RELATED READING: Tournament preview: Canada at the Olympic qualifiers || Who is Canada’s most important player? || Roster analysis: Breaking down Canada’s squad


  • Biello's take: Qualifying for Tokyo is the main objective for Canada, of course. But under-23 coach Mauro Biello, who serves as an assistant to John Herdman, believes this tournament provides a players a chance to make a case for earning a call-up to the Canadian senior team. "This is an opportunity for a lot of youngsters to showcase themselves but at the same time, in terms of the program everything's aligned from the men's national team all the way to our U-15 program," Biello told reporters on Thursday. "So a lot of these players that have had some experience graduating through the youth teams and now into the U-23s in our environments are now ready."
  • Cornelius – Canada’s leader: This Canadian under-23 side features a number of players who have earned senior team caps, includingMarcus Godinho, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Charles-Andreas Brym, Theo Bair, Zorhan Bassong, Ballou Tabla and Kris Twardek. But the most experienced player is Vancouver Whitecaps centre-back, who has 13 caps since making his senior team debut in 2018. Canada has just three central defenders (Cornelius, Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, and Callum Montgomery) on this team, so there won’t be much chance for squad rotation. Biello is expected to rely heavily on Cornelius to use his previous outings with the national team and his MLS experience to quarterback Canada’s back line.
  • CPL representation: There are two CPL players on Canada’s 20-man roster: Defender Meilleur-Giguère (Pacific FC) and midfielder David Norman Jr. (Cavalry FC ). Meilleur-Giguère has played for Canada at youth level, making three appearances at the 2017 Concacaf U-20 Championship held in Costa Rica. Norman Jr. has represented Canada at the U-15 and U-17 levels, and with Canada’s U-23 side that featured in the 2018 Toulon Tournament. He is also the son of former Canadian international David Norman Sr.
  • Players to watch on El Salvador: The majority of El Salvador’s players are based in the country’s domestic league. But two players to watch are forwards Joshua Perez and Enrico Hernandez, who ply their trades at UD Ibiza of Spain and Dutch side Vitesse. Together, the European-based duo offer their national team plenty of impetus going forward in attack. Also, midfielder Eric Calvillo has MLS experience under his belt, having previously turned out for the San Jose Earthquakes.
  • How the tournament works: Canada returns to Group B action when it faces Haiti on March 22) and Honduras on March 25. Group A consists of Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Canada must finish in the top two in Group B in order to advance to the semifinals on March 28, with only the two tournament finalists qualifying for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.


"We want to be front-footed in the way we play. We've seen that with the (senior) men's team and I'm looking to reproduce that same identity with this U-23 team. ... We want to put the game on our terms when we have the ball, and then deny the opposition any kind of penetration when we don't have the ball. That's our identity." - Canadian coach Mauro Biello "We’re expecting (El Salvador) to come hard, to come strong. They’re going to be hungry, they’re going to be motivated, and we really need to match that motivation, drive and hunger. We’re expecting a tough game and we’re not taking anybody for granted." - Canadian defender Derek Cornelius
ALL-TIME SERIES IN OLYMPIC QUALIFYING Canada wins: 3 || El Salvador wins: 1 || Draws: 2

PREVIOUS MEETING March 22, 2012: Canada 0, El Salvador 0

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