VANCOUVER, BC – Three games left. That’s all that splits the Canadian men’s National Team and their first World Cup match against Belgium on Nov. 23. On Monday, the CanMNT visit San Pedro Sula, looking to beat Honduras and improve to 2-0-0 in Concacaf Nations League.
With a maximum of two official friendlies in the September window, it’s crunch time for head coach John Herdman’s group as he irons out the best gameplan and lineup to take points off some of the world’s best nations.
After beating Curacao 4-0 in a comfortable win in Vancouver, the CanMNT face another test in Honduras that won’t push them as a World Cup team but offers them another game to prep for Qatar. Additionally, a win sets Canada up nicely to advance to the Nations League knockout stages.
“That was a dominant performance from our lads,” Herdman said after the Curacao win. “Really proud of them, given everything that’s gone on the last few days, for them to come out with that sort of intent. Yeah, really impressed.”
Now visiting Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, the CanMNT reinvests a cathedral of old nightmares, now overshadowed in the brilliance of Jonathan David’s goal in World Cup qualifying.
With the World Cup fast approaching, here are a few things to watch on Monday at 7:00 pm PT on OneSoccer.
Last chance for potential squad rotation?
Against Curacao, Herdman rolled out a 4-4-2, which was very fluid and featured most of the first-choice players for the CanMNT. While that system could be the one Canada leads with in Qatar, there are other options that Herdman could test against Honduras.
There is potential to see Canada shift to a three at the back, with a lineup featuring Steven Vitoria, Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller. With that, Tajon Buchanan could make way for Richie Laryea, who would offer a more defensive profile, potentially of use against a high-flying Belgian side in November.
As it stands, the Canadian team is highly versatile in how they can play and have a lot of depth down the bench. In contrast, other Concacaf nations may have deeper player pools, but few, if any, parallel Canada’s strength from players #1-18.
Outside of the shift to a back three in a 3-5-2, there is also a chance to see a first CanMNT start for Ike Ugbo, who showed promise against Curacao in a brief appearance. At the same time, fellow forward Lucas Cavallini proved he could still contribute with a goal last match, possibly earning himself a start against Honduras.
Eustaquio is key in Canada’s patience
While Alphonso Davies and Tajon Buchanan can run for days, that strategy won’t beat the world’s best. However, a multi-faceted attack, helped by Stephen Eustaquio’s patience, now is key to success.
After a move to FC Porto, Esutaquio didn’t get the minutes he was hoping for down the final stretch of the 2021-22 European season and showed a bit of rust against Curacao. Still, he is Canada’s most valuable player and will need to be comfortable heading to the World Cup.
If Canada shifts to a 3-5-2, he will likely be called on to aid the defensive transition even moreso, meaning the Leamington, Ont. native will have to position himself in spaces to create time for Canada’s attack to formulate.
While his skill set will be critical in Qatar, it will also be crucial in Honduras, on a pitch and in conditions that won’t favour the fast Canadian team. Eustaquio’s ability to calm the game down in the heat and humidity becomes essential.
How about Honduras?
Honduras barely snuck into The Octo and started it well, but since drawing Canada 1-1 in the first match of the final round of World cup qualifying, things have gone relatively downhill. Once one of the more competitive sides in Concacaf, Honduras split their first two Nations League matches with Qatar and only have a visit to Canada after this one.
Their talisman is undoubtedly CF Montreal’s Romell Quoito, who could face his club teammates in Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnston. While he scored in their last match, it wasn’t enough, as it only made a 2-0 loss slightly less sour at 2-1.
Honduras will still feature a hostile environment for the Canadian squad, with potentially more home support than in qualifying, when there were more substantial COVID-19 restrictions in the nation. As Herdman explained, there aren’t any easy tests in Concacaf, but the CanMNT has high expectations.
Canada kicks off their second match of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League in Honduras at 7:00 pm PT on OneSoccer.ca/watch