FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers Canada vs. Mexico November 16, 2021 at 9:00 pm ET/7:00 pm MT Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta Watch live on OneSoccer, TELUS Ch. 980, and Sportsnet
MATCH PREVIEWThe Canadian men's national team will look to make it a perfect November international window on Tuesday night, as they prepare a frosty reception for Mexico at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium. Full of confidence after last Friday's 1-0 win over Costa Rica at the same venue, John Herdman's Canada fear nobody at the moment -- not even Mexico, who have played at every FIFA World Cup since 1994. As it stands, Canada sit third in the Octagon -- the eight-team final round for Concacaf's World Cup Qualifying format. That puts them in good position for their quest to book a ticket to Qatar 2022; the top three teams qualify directly to the world's biggest sporting competition, with the fourth place side advancing to an inter-confederation playoff with another continent. With 13 points from seven games, Canada are the only undefeated team left in the group at the halfway point of this journey. They're one point back of both Mexico and the United States (who beat the Mexicans 2-0 on Friday night), so a win on Tuesday could put Canada into second or even first place. So far, this qualification campaign has been a little rocky for Mexico. They're still in good position, with four wins, two draws, and a loss, but the performances haven't been as dominant as we've come to expect of El Tri. In the October window, their draw at home with Canada was a disappointment, but they followed up that result with resounding wins over Honduras and El Salvador. Nonetheless, the pressure is on for Mexico; if they fail to get a result in Canada, a lot of questions will be asked of them by media back home -- including questions asked of coach Tata Martino. So, they're sure to be a hungry opponent desperate for a big win. This will be the third time Canada and Mexico have played at the men's senior level in 2021, with the Gold Cup semifinal in July producing a very narrow 2-1 win for the Mexicans thanks to Héctor Herrera's 99th-minute winner. Both times they've played this year, Canada left the match feeling disappointed that they didn't come away with the win. This time, on home turf, Herdman's men are extremely confident that this will be their moment. Canada have only beaten Mexico four times in their history, the last victory being the 2000 Gold Cup quarterfinal (a 2-1 triumph in extra time). The last Canadian win over Mexico on Canadian soil was a 1990 game in Burnaby, BC. However, Canada actually does have some history of decent performances against Mexico at Commonwealth Stadium; in 1997 and 2008, the Canadians hosted El Tri in Edmonton for World Cup qualifiers, and managed a 2-2 draw both times (both games being played in the slightly milder weather of October). Historically, Canada's men's team has a record of nine wins, six defeats, and four draws at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, dating back to 1980. With a full-strength squad and a lot of momentum behind them, Les Rouges will hope to make a little more history on Tuesday night.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
Mexican confidence shaken after loss to U.S.El Tri have long been the undisputed kings of the Concacaf region, but they certainly have not looked as dominant the past few months as they have in some previous World Cup Qualifying cycles. Friday night's Dos a Cero loss to the United States in Cincinnati definitely stung Tata Martino's side, who have now lost to their bitterest rivals three times in 2021 -- including the Concacaf Nations League final back in June, and the Gold Cup final in August. Although Mexico are level with the U.S. on points at the top of the table for the Concacaf Octagon (technically behind on goal differential), concern seems to be mounting at home for them. The prospect of ending this window in fourth place after entering it in first seems to very much be on their minds; it seems the draw at the Azteca with Canada back in October also shook them significantly. This remains an extremely strong team, with talented attackers like Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jesús Corona (Porto), and Hirving 'Chucky' Lozano (Napoli), to go along with formidable midfielders like Atlético Madrid's Héctor Herrera and Ajax's Edson Álvarez. Canada definitely will not under any circumstances underestimate this opponent, but they've also been very clear that they do not fear the Mexicans. Will we see a Mexican team that's unsure of itself on Tuesday? Or a hungry one desperate to prove themselves?
Chilly reception awaits in EdmontonOrange ball time? Possibly. The current forecast in Edmonton is calling for snow throughout Monday and Tuesday, with a projected temperature of about -8 degrees Celsius at kickoff. There's been plenty of debate over the past few days over whether or not these conditions actually give Canada much of an advantage -- the cold will be tough for anybody to play in, and the slow turf pitch might not favour Canada's fast-paced attacking style. That said, John Herdman's side will have at least some kind of psychological advantage; they've been based in Edmonton since last week, and they've now trained and played a match on the Commonwealth Stadium turf. Mexico, meanwhile, trained in Indianapolis over the weekend after their game in Cincinnati; they did receive some snowfall there on Sunday, but nonetheless they will not be as confident in their surroundings as a Canadian team that has had far more time getting to know the stadium and playing surface in Edmonton. Both teams cancelled their outdoor training sessions on Monday, which means Mexico will not have trained on the stadium's turf at all before the match on Tuesday. There's also some precedent for Canada doing well against Mexico in Edmonton, with those aforementioned 2-2 draws in 2008 and 1997. Forcing the opponent to play in chillier (though not nearly as cold as it'll be Tuesday) conditions on synthetic turf did seem to work in Canada's favour at least somewhat. Whether it's an advantage for Canada or not will be seen on Tuesday night, but either way this is sure to be a chilly one, with heavy wind and possibly some snow during the match. Players on both sides will definitely be in for a frigid night -- as will the 48,000-plus fans expected to pack Commonwealth Stadium.
Can Canada exploit wide areas?The particular weaknesses that this Mexican team has shown in some of its previous stumbles will likely inform Canada's preparation for this game. The United States managed to exploit them on Friday with aggressive, direct play, as their wide attackers Timothy Weah and Brenden Aaronson were constantly making runs in behind the Mexican fullbacks. American fullbacks DeAndre Yedlin and Antonee Robinson drove upfield with the ball frequently, and they were excellent at finding those wingers making runs. Mexico's centre-backs were fairly sloppy in that game as well, allowing the U.S. to play through them too easily and failing to clear the ball leading up to Weston McKennie's late goal. Canada absolutely has the ability to hurt Mexico in similar ways (and quite a few of their chances at the Azteca last month came in similar fashion). Depending on how John Herdman chooses to line up his team, there are a lot of options for his side to attack the wide areas. Against Costa Rica, he used Sam Adekugbe and Richie Laryea as traditional fullbacks, with an all-out front four of Liam Millar, Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, and Tajon Buchanan in a 4-4-2. This time, he may want to stretch the field a little more at the front and give Davies more room out wide; if Cyle Larin is fit to start, might we see Davies deployed as a fullback or wingback with Larin on the wing? However they choose to line up, Davies and Buchanan will probably be key to Canada's strategy of getting behind Mexico's fullbacks. El Tri boss Tata Martino might choose to switch up some of his personnel for this game after the loss; left-back Jésus Gallardo was exposed several times in that game, and Luis Rodríguez wasn't much better on the right. Prevailing sentiment in the Mexican media suggests that Gallardo, at least, might be dropped, perhaps in favour of Osvaldo Rodríguez, as well as one of the front three (Tecatito Corona seems the likely odd man out). All that said, wide and direct play is also a staple of Martino's strategy with this Mexican team of late. They like to play into spaces on the sides of the penalty area and look for crosses or cutback passes to a striker or trailing opposite fullback; their goal against Canada in October came from a cross in transition. So, Canada will again need to ensure a pace advantage in the wide areas so that they can track back and prevent the Mexican front three from getting into space behind them.
Mexico wins wins: 24 || Canada wins: 4 || Draws: 10
October 7, 2021 — Mexico 1-1 Canada
Mexico wins wins: 24 || Canada wins: 4 || Draws: 10
October 7, 2021 — Mexico 1-1 Canada