2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying – First round Group B June 8, 2021 — SeatGeek Stadium, Chicago, Illinois (9 pm ET/6 pm PT) Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca

No room for error.

First place in Group B is on the line on Tuesday when the Canadian men's national team plays "host" (in Chicago) to Suriname, as the two sides battle to move on to the next round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying.

Although there's a 66-place gap in the FIFA World rankings between Canada (70th) and Suriname (136th), this contest between two so-far-undefeated teams in this competition has been touted as a major test for this young Canadian side. The Surinamese squad has improved immensely in recent months, with a number of new recruits from strong European leagues coming into the program for the first time.

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Both sides enter the final group-stage match in this first round of qualifying, having beaten Aruba, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands. Most recently, the Canadians toppled Aruba 7-0 on Friday night, the day after Suriname took down Bermuda 6-0.

Canada coach John Herdman isn't quite sure where Suriname might fall in the pecking order of Concacaf soccer, but he's preparing his side for its greatest test in a long time.

"The simplicity is, they're a good team in Concacaf," he told reporters on Monday. "I don't know how you rank them, where you rank them, but these are a good team. When you've got players in the Bundesliga, players in the Eredivisie... this is the strongest team Canada has faced since the USA, Mexico; it's gonna be a great challenge."

It'll be tough to gauge what exactly Suriname might look like, with so many of their players so new to the setup, but the on-paper talent is easily enough to make an opponent sit up and take notice. Canada has had this match circled on the calendar for a few months now, and it could well be the first real test in a World Cup qualifying campaign that has the potential to change this national team program forever.

What's at stake

Quite simply, win and you move on. If either side gets all three points from this contest, they'll move on to the next round, which will be a two-legged knockout tie with (probably) Haiti beginning next weekend. Thanks to Canada's superior goal differential, they'll enter with a slight advantage: a draw would also see them finish ahead and top the group. Suriname's 6-0 win over Bermuda brought them level with Canada, but Les Rouges put seven goals past Aruba the next day and pulled comfortably back in front. That second-round tie will be vital as well, with the winner of that moving on to the Octagonal stage with the top eight teams in the conference competing for three-and-a-half (via an inter-continental playoff) places in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Of course, Canada's side has no intention of playing for a draw against Suriname: "As a group of competitors these guys want to compete," Herdman said. "They want to impose themselves on their opponents, and by doing that, that'll be a performance that they'll be proud of. They aren't looking for that dishonourable victory; they want to wear the red shirt with pride."

3 Pre-match thoughts

  • Jonathan David's triumphant return? After more than a year away from the national team, Jonathan David was back on the pitch on Saturday for a brief run out with Alphonso Davies and Cyle Larin at the end of the Aruba game. Fresh off a stunning Ligue 1 championship with Lille in France, David's confidence should be sky-high. We saw it already from Davies and Larin back in March, but these players have returned to the red jersey with incredible gusto. In what's sure to be David's first start for Canada since November 2019, look out for him to try and make an impact as Canada's potential three-headed attacking monster of those three finally returns to the starting 11.
  • Questions at CB: Steven Vitória and Frank Sturing played all 90 minutes in the middle of Canada's back four against Aruba, although they were never really tested. Could one of them get the nod against Suriname as well? Doneil Henry is almost certain to anchor the defence on Tuesday, but entering the camp the odds-on favourite for his centre-back partner probably would have been Vitória. Scott Kennedy, the fourth central defender in the squad, is at his first-ever Canada camp, so it might be surprising to see such pressure put on him immediately. Joel Waterman, called into the squad as part of the group of additional training players, could also be an option.
  • Youth movement off the bench: A few players who are brand new to the senior national team setup have recently made an impact in some of these World Cup qualifiers -- the two most noteworthy being Theo Corbeanu and Tajon Buchanan. The former debuted at the March camp and looked astonishingly confident alongside Davies and Larin, and the latter, making his first appearance for the full national team, was a revelation against Aruba with his pace and attacking acumen along the right flank. Neither is very likely to start (although, who knows...), but it wouldn't be a surprise to see at least one of them brought into the game in the second half, especially if Canada needs some more energy up front.

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