These next few weeks are the biggest the Canadian men's national team has faced for quite some time – and Samuel Piette knows that Canada up for the fight. Piette spoke to the media ahead of Canada's World Cup Qualifying matches against Aruba and Suriname this week, emphasizing that Canada can't overlook any teams, he was also confident about the team's ability to win those two matches and qualify for the next round of matches. If Canada top their group (Group B), they'd take on the winner of Group E, which could still be won by Nicaragua, Belize or Haiti. They'd play each other in a two-legged series, with the winner moving onto another round of qualification in the fall, with the biggest countries in the region -- the United States and Mexico among them.
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"Obviously, big games are coming," Piette said. "We know how important these games are. We know there's no, margin for error in this role to qualify for the World Cup. "Starting against Aruba on the fifth [of June], this is our first mission, our first test. We know that we have to win it, put ourselves in a really good position against Suriname. It's a lot of games, for games that you set in 11 days (if Canada wins their group), we're taking one game at a time."
Piette taking things one match at a time: 'A little bit of good nervousness'Piette was adamant that Canada won't overlook any team, or get too far ahead of themselves. The next round is important, as is the match against Suriname, but they have to get there first. "Obviously we have that second round in mind, but we're just focused on the first two games," Piette started. "People need to understand that these games are crucial for us. They're always super important, doesn't matter who the opponents are, but especially now that we have to get through these teams. We have to beat these teams to advance to the second round. "I'm very excited. Obviously a little bit of nervousness, good nervousness, we're not scared. Not at all. But we know that we have to go into these two games to win them. And we're confident." June 3rd, 2021 will mark the ninth anniversary of Piette's first match for Canada. He became the latest player to hit 50 caps for Canada in the match against Bermuda (and picked up number 51 a few days later) and says that the program has come a long way in those nine years. "It was a proud moment for sure my parents were in the stands. I was obviously, really happy and proud," Piette recalled. "I'm proud of my journey with the national team. Obviously, we've been through tough moments, you know, with different coaches. But I think the team that we have, and not only the players, but behind the scenes, the team behind the team, is the best I've seen since I've been with the national team. "Quality-wise, I don't even have to talk about it, with the players that we have. It's the best group of players that I've played with under this Canadian jersey. I think we're in a good spot now, the program is healthy, in a good place." In one of the most impressive recruitment drives in recent memory, Suriname has completely overhauled their national team. In their squad to play Canada, only four players have made five or more appearances for the senior side. Bringing in players from clubs around the world, mostly Europe, Canada isn't entirely sure what to expect from Suriname, but they do know that they'll be a difficult team to beat. "They have some really good players," Piette said. "Most of them are coming from Holland, one guy is playing in Bundesliga, some guys are playing in Eredivisie. "We will look at them, look at some clips, and how they can set up against us. But I think the most important [thing] is to focus on what we can do. Because that's pretty much the only thing we can control coming into this game." Canada is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, and it showed in their matches in March -- a 5-1 win over Bermuda and an 11-0 thrashing of Cayman Islands. "We're going into these first two games, with the mentality that we have to win, and we will win," Piette said. If they do win those two matches, they'll top the group and move onto the playoff, where they could meet a familiar foe.
'We still have Gold Cup loss to Haiti in mind'If Canada tops the group, and Haiti wins theirs, the two countries will square off for the first time since the 2019 Gold Cup. After Canada went up 2-0 inside 30 minutes in that match, Haiti pulled off a dramatic come-from-behind victory, taking the tie 3-2 and eliminating Canada. With a lot of that 2019 squad still around, Piette says that the pressure is on them to win, should they face each other again. "Let's not forget that we lost against them in the quarterfinals of the last Gold Cup," Piette said. "We still have that in mind. If we have to face them in the second round, we are obviously looking to get revenge against them. "I think there's always pressure when you play, either with your club or with your national team. Now you're representing your country, so it's even bigger, and [you're trying] to qualify for the biggest tournament, the biggest sporting event in the world. I will be kind of scared if guys weren't really nervous or excited about these games."