Following one of the biggest matches the Canadian men's national team has played in quite some time, people across the country are celebrating. After more than two decades, Canada has reached the final round of World Cup Qualifying for the first time since 1997, getting there with a 4-0 aggregate win over Haiti. After Tuesday's second leg, head coach John Herdman and General Secretary of Canada Soccer Peter Montopoli spoke to the media.
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Montopoli delivers opening statementAt the beginning of their postgame media call, Peter Montopoli made a statement on behalf of himself and Canada Soccer, where he had a lot of praise for John Herdman and his players. Here is the statement in full:
"I want to take the opportunity, on behalf of Canada Soccer, to congratulate John, the staff, and all the players, and the commitment they've shown to wear the jersey, and wear the crest. "John laid the program out beautifully a long time ago, but there have been many starts, false starts, and restarts. We started chasing points because we were told we had to gather points, then we had to change the ranking table because we had different points. That all changed, then we got into the chase to get into the final round, the Octagon. "Through all that, John was poised and focused, and led our team to victory. The credit for this goes to John, our staff, and the players. All the players showed up every time John came calling. Some of you have been on this journey with us for many editions prior to this, times when that didn't happen. But it did happen in this one. That's a real credit to John, he's been relentless in his pursuit to get us to the Octagon, and I think you see the results now in all the matches. His staff have gone above and beyond, not only through coaching, but getting national interest exemptions, being involved in security protocol, in COVID protocol. "I don't think in my time here, this is my fourth rodeo, I've never seen anything like it. It's been relentless focus to get us to where we are. I want to make sure that everybody understands that credit goes to John and his staff, who have put in countless hours for this organization to be where it is. "And where are we? I think we're giving our country a great deal of hope, and for Canada Soccer a great deal of opportunity. I think that's what we have in front of us, coming in September, right on through to March."
"Pride" the overwhelming feeling for Herdman, but there are mountains still to climbIt was clear during John Herdman's press conference that he was immensely proud of the team for what they achieved -- he said it himself on multiple occasions on Tuesday night -- but you could see it in his actions as well. He was smiling throughout, as you can imagine, but also tapped his chest, on the Canada Soccer badge -- subtle reminders of how important this match was for himself, and the Canadian men's national team as a whole. After Montopoli's statement, Herdman returned the praise. "Just pride," he said when asked what the result made him feel. "Real pride for you guys, for the fans, for the people who have been waiting for this opportunity for so long. It's an organization, Canada Soccer, that has been relentless in finding a way to make sure we got into that Octagon and kept the dream alive of taking this group to 2022, which will lay the foundation for 2026." Herdman also said that while an impressive achievement, Canada need to stay humble because the hardest tests are still to come. "Tomorrow, the focus shifts to the big mountain," he said. "That big mountain is one of the most exciting mountains I think this whole country is going to try and climb together. "That's why I'm inviting all you guys to come on that mountain. Climb with us, it's happening. We did it." Whatever challenges may be ahead, Canada are ready, according to Herdman. "This team deserves to be there," he said. "We're even more hungry, and battle-hardened, with more experience under our belt. "If we can go to Haiti, I think we can travel anywhere. That was a great experience for us."
The building blocks are falling into place, but the journey is "just starting"Herdman said that while a lot of soccer infrastructure is being built in this country, the things the men's national team lacked for many years were mental things, like hope and trust. "We're starting to give some hope," Herdman said. "We haven't filled this country with trust. The amount of toxicity I've seen in the men's game, it's very fractured, side-to-side, front-to-back, a lot of people pulling in different directions. I have to say, the men's team is the key to connecting this country together and giving it an anchor, a rally point. "We've got so many good things happening in our country -- the Canadian Premier League is a foundation for our young players to come through, we've got our MLS infrastructure. But the thing that's been missing is the trust in this badge," he said while tapping on the Canada Soccer logo on his chest. "We've done some great things, we've brought World Cups to this country, 2026, and the Women's World Cup was unbelievable, we've pushed the bar on the women's side, and now we're doing it on the men's. We beat the USA for the first time in 35 years, we've beaten records with this team, and now we've got ourselves where we want to be in the Octagon. "It's just starting."