Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification — Match #1 Canada v.s Bermuda March 25, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. ET Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
Canada’s journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar finally begins on Thursday night in Orlando against Bermuda. From World Cup qualifying delays to cancelled friendlies, the Canadian men’s team has had a less-than-ideal run during the COVID-19 pandemic. John Herdman’s side last played a competitive game in November 2019 against the United States in Concacaf Nations League and only managed one camp in 2020 – featuring a three-friendly set in California vs. Iceland and Barbados – before pandemic-related shutdowns. But Thursday’s tilt is an ideal return, the first of four matches in a revamped Concacaf qualifying campaign that puts Canada in a five-team group alongside Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Suriname, and Aruba. Canada is 73rd in the current FIFA world rankings, well ahead of Bermuda (No. 169). The six group winners from the first round advance, with the top team in Group B facing the winner of Group E – which is made up of Haiti (No. 84), Nicaragua (No. 149), Belize (No. 170), St. Lucia (No. 175) and Turks and Caicos Islands (No. 203) – in a home-and-away playoff in June. The three winners of the second-round matchups move on to the final round of Concacaf qualifying, joining Mexico (No. 9), the U.S. (No. 22), Jamaica (No. 47), Costa Rica (No. 50) and Honduras (No. 64). The eight nations will play each other home and away, with the top three automatically qualifying for the World Cup. The fourth-place nation will play in an intercontinental playoff for a chance to go to Qatar.
RELATED READING: Hutchinson, Larin back in CanMNT roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers
5 THINGS TO KNOW
- Canada’s the big guns: Herdman’s squad is unexpectedly strong, considering the ongoing worldwide pandemic and the various club commitments that typically hinder March call-ups. Bayern Munich star and UEFA Champions League winner Alphonso Davies leads the way, joining a squad that’s two-or-three pieces away from an objectively full-strength Canada squad. Lille OSC striker Jonathan David (quarantine restrictions), Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield (personal reasons), and Jonathan Osorio (injury) are notable omissions.
- Return of Atiba: Canada’s ageless wonder is back. Atiba Hutchinson, a 38-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., has been recalled by Herdman for the first time since playing at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. The Besiktas midfielder has 84 caps for Canada and is just five appearances behind all-time leader Julian de Guzman.
- Home away from home: Canada’s tilt with Bermuda is considered a home game for Les Rouges, who were unable to host on home soil due to COVID-19 restrictions. Herdman’s next tilt with the Cayman Islands will take place in nearby Bradenton, Florida and will be considered an away match.
- Where does Davies play: Alphonso Davies was voted the best left fullback in world football last year but we’ll see him a much different role against Bermuda. The 20-year-old is listed as a forward on Canada Soccer’s official roster release, and Herdman revealed he will be playing an attacking role in this camp."He wants to be known as a forward when he puts on the Canadian shirt and I’m happy to list him there," Herdman said. "You see him listed as a forward and that’s the role he’ll be playing… but he has that flexibility to make those in-game changes."
- Bermuda missing players: Bermuda coach Kyle Lightbourne was unable to call-up Nahki Wells (Bristol City, English Championship) and Reggie Lambe (Stowmarket Town F.C., English Tier 9), the country’s leaders in goals and appearances, respectively. Wells has an impressive 12 goals in 18 appearances – including a two-goal output at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup – but was unable to join with the squad due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Lambe, who previously represented Toronto FC in MLS, was left off the call-up list after sustaining injuries from a bicycle accident.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
"He’s just one of those guys you always want part of your group. If you’ve ever worked with him you realize he has that Christine Sinclair-like presence. He’s one of those quiet, unassuming leaders, but you know when he’s there and you know when he’s not there. He just brings a level of experience, a bit of an aura around his presence that young players look up, but even the senior veterans," – Herdman on Atiba Hutchinson's return to the Canadian men’s national team fold.