Qatar offers little resistance to Canada en route to the FIFA World Cup

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VIENNA, Austria – It was an impressive performance for the Canada men’s national soccer team, but a 2-0 win might have revealed more about Qatar than John Herdman’s side.

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As hosts, Qatar is the only one of the 32 nations participating in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November that did not have to qualify. That could prove detrimental as they haven’t played many official games in four years and it has shown.

Cyle Larin and Jonathan David scored for Canada in the win, a goal that actually flattered the World Cup hosts as it should have been far worse.

“I think the guys went out there and did well,” Larin said after the game. “I liked how we played with possession and intensity. We want to build on that and you could see tonight that we made it and we find ways to get better every day.”

Canada played more qualifiers than any other country due to the unbalanced process in Concacaf, which should make it as easy as possible for the USA and Mexico to reach the World Cup.

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Canada got the last laugh, topping the final Concacaf qualifying group and looking back on their form following the international window debacle in June.

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A match against Iran was canceled due to backlash related to the Iranians shooting down an airliner with Canadians on board and replaced by Panama, only to get the players to close the competition amid a dispute over World Cup qualifying bonuses with Canada Soccer boycott.

The dispute is still unresolved, but the team is refocusing on the pitch with the tournament less than two months away. The game was a nice change of pace for Canada to finally play against someone outside of their region.

“Getting away from Concacaf – it’s been four years – and playing against a team like Qatar, we know they’re prepared, they’re an organized team, I was happy with the performance,” said Herdman. “On defence, I was happy to concede a goal. and offensively we were able to break their (defensive) block which is a strong block and we showed that quality. It looked like the lads were enjoying their football and that’s important to us.”

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In the first of two games of the final international window before the World Cup, Canada looked impressive against Qatar and Larin needed just four minutes to score. The Club Brugge forward broke through the sluggish Qatar defenders and headed Sam Adekugbe’s cross past goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Larin led all goalscorers with 13 goals in qualifying and now has 25 in 53 games for his country.

“It felt good to score a goal,” said Larin. “When I play, I score. I don’t play that much at my club, but if I get the chance I’ll take (convert) my chances.

Herdman sent an attacking squad against Qatar, who have been preparing for the World Cup by playing both international and club opponents.

Larin, David and Alphonso Davies made up the attacking trio up front, supported by attacking midfielder Stephen Eustaquio, along with Samuel Piette, Junior Hoilett and Adekugbe.

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Steven Vitoria, Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnston held the defensive line while Milan Borjan started in goal without his signature gray sweatpants.

“I thought it was a solid performance from the first minute,” said Piette. “Those games where you face a team from your region that you don’t know, you’ve only seen clips and videos when they were in the Gold Cup, but it’s not the same as facing them on the pitch.

“Being so dominant, especially in possession, and being able to win the ball back as soon as we lost it made me super happy. It was 2-0 and I wish we could have scored more goals but we’ll win and we’ll keep going.”

After Larin’s goal, Canada turned the ball around with ease in the first half, slicing through the Qatar defense at will.

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David gave Canada a 2-0 lead in the 14th minute by conceding a lap lead. The game was started by Miller, who fired a shot on target from the left corner of the box that was swept away by Al Sheeb straight to Davies up front. The Bayern Munich star rolled over the ball and it splashed to David who poked him home.

Davies had an excellent opportunity to extend the lead when he was sent through with an excellent pass from Johnston, but his first touch was too heavy and the ball ran away from him.

Just 15 minutes into the second half, Davies limped off the field with an apparent calf injury. He was the recipient of a couple of tough tackles and the second had him down holding his left leg.

“He was supposed to come on in the 55th minute, so I was a little frustrated that we didn’t get him out when he knocked,” Herdman said. “We’re judging him now, he seemed fine on the bench and he seemed fine after the game and was in good spirits. I don’t think there is anything else to worry about.”

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Herdman emptied his bench shortly afterwards and substitute Ike Ugbo should have given Canada a three-goal lead when the ball fell in front of the open net after a run into Richie Laryea’s penalty area. However, Ugbo was a little too lax on the finish attempt and had his shot blocked by a defender.

Miller later missed a sitter and set a rebound off the bar after Al Sheeb stopped a Ugbo header.

Canada went into the latest international window excited to play someone outside of the Concacaf, but in reality Qatar proved to be an appetizer for the main course which will face Uruguay on Tuesday.

The South American side will be the best opponents Canada have faced since their invitation to Argentina ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

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Head coach Diego Maradona wished for a soft opponent for his Argentinians in the farewell game in Buenos Aires and Canada, offered little resistance in a 0-5 defeat.

This Canadian side has been one of the worst on record while the current squad is the best so they should offer Uruguay a better challenge.

“We have the opportunity to once again measure ourselves against one of the best teams in the world,” said Vitoria. “We respect our opponents but we also respect ourselves and we will push our limits and prepare as best we can to get one step closer to what we want to be.”

Email: [email protected]

On twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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