2022 World Cup Qualifying – Second round, first leg Canadian men's national team vs. Haiti June 12, 2021 — Stade Sylvio Cator, Port-au-Prince, Haiti (5 pm ET/2 pm PT) Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
Canada’s long and winding journey to Qatar is set to run through Port-au-Prince. The Canadian men’s national team faces Haiti Saturday in the first leg of a two-match second stage (5pm ET/2pm PT on OneSoccer) of 2022 World Cup qualifying – the latest step in a revamped and compressed three-stage trial that Les Rouges is taking to make their first World Cup in over 35 years. Herdman advanced through the five-team first stage group Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Suriname and finishing with 4-0-0 record and a staggering +26 goal differential after big wins over Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Aruba. Concacaf’s second stage sees group winners from the first round face off in a two-legged tie with the aggregate winner advancing to the eight-team third and final stage, known as the “octagon.” If Canada advances, they would face off against Mexico, the United States, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras, and two more second-stage winners. Top three finishers advance to the World Cup in Qatar while the fourth-placed side enters an inter-confederation play-off. Canada hasn’t reached the final stage of Concacaf World Cup qualifying since 1998 and this two-legged tie gives John Herdman’s side objectively the best opportunity to do so since. However, this two-legged path is not as easy as it seems. Haiti famously knocked Canada out of the 2019 Gold Cup at the quarter-final stage, thus giving us a Summer grudge match. The Haitians, led by former international Jean-Jacques Pierre, qualified for the second round with a narrow 1-0 win over Nicaragua last week. Derrick Etienne of MLS side Columbus Crew scored the game’s lone marker. The second leg between Canada and Haiti will be played on Tuesday. A location for that match, which is considered Canada’s “home” half of the tie, has not yet been determined. Canada played all four first-round matches in the United States.
What’s at stake
Ro be blunt: A lot. Canada and Haiti, who topped Groups B and E respectively in the first round of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, have equal need of a result. The winner of this two-legged tie will advance to the Octagonal — the third round of the qualification process, an eight-team round-robin from which three or four sides will advance to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
With this first game being the away leg for Canada, the pressure will be on Haiti not to concede. An away goal or two for Canada could put them in excellent position heading into Tuesday’s reverse fixture.
Pride will be on the line too, of course, with Canada hoping to avenge that 2019 Gold Cup quarter-final defeat.
3 Pre-match thoughts
- Tactical curveballs: John Herdman surprised many people — most importantly Suriname — by deploying his side with a three-man backline and putting Alphonso Davies at left wingback. It wasn’t the first time he’s pulled a new formation out of his bag of tricks for a big game, either, considering the 4-2-2-2 that worked so well in October 2019 against the United States. Could there be another surprise in store for Haiti? Certainly, the tactical flexibility has made Canada harder to scout.
- Questions at the back: One of the biggest surprises of Herdman’s lineup against Suriname was starting a pair of quite inexperienced defenders at centre-back: regular fullback Alistair Johnston and debutant Scott Kennedy. Both played well, but was it well enough to put either or both of them back in the game this weekend against Haiti? Doneil Henry, nominally Canada’s top centre-back at the moment, will probably get the start, but will he be joined by one or two of his younger teammates? Or might Steven Vitória draw back in?
- Get Larin involved: As much as Davies and David were exceptional against Suriname, Cyle Larin had a bit of a quiet night. His movement off the ball was good, and his presence probably helped create the space that his teammates worked to exploit, but he wasn’t on the end of a great many dangerous scoring chances. Perhaps this time around he’s a bigger part of the attack, with a few more opportunities to score? He was fantastic in the March qualifying window, and he’s been in great goal scoring form all season with Besiktas.