Qatar World Cup: Can Les Rouges cause an upset in Group F?

For the first time since the Mexico World Cup in 1986, Canada have qualified for football’s greatest festival — clinching top spot in the Concacaf qualifying ahead of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) and Mexico to book their place in Qatar for what will be just their second ever World Cup appearance.

Les Rouges topping the group ahead of their more successful North American rivals came as something of a surprise, as the Canadians are way behind the USA (14th) and Mexico (12th) in 43rd in the FIFA World Rankings. But John Herdman’s existing young side proved no pushovers, winning eight of their 14 ties to finish ahead of Mexico at the top of the standings on goal difference.

Their first appearance at a World Cup in 35 years will not be easy though. Canada have been paired in a tricky group with second in the world Belgium, 23rd-ranked Morocco and Croatia (15th), who were the surprise finalists in Russia four years ago — ultimately losing 4-2 in the showpiece match to France at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

But despite their lengthy World Cup odds of around 200/1 in the online betting and their unfavourable world ranking going in to the tournament, is there reason to believe that the Canadians can cause a bit of a stir in Group F? — just as they did in the Concacaf qualifying phase.

They face Belgium in their opening game on November 23rd, but Roberto Martinez’s side have perhaps not lived up to the expectations of their ‘Golden Era’ and they are under a lot of pressure going into this World Cup as it will likely be their last chance to get their hands on the famous trophy before this group of stars is split up. So, don’t rule Les Rouges out from causing an upset in that Al Rayyan Stadium clash.

Canada will face off with Croatia at the Khalifa International Stadium four days later, and while they were finalists last time out, it’s hard to see the Europeans pull off anything of the kind again in Qatar — especially after a mediocre Euro 2020, where they won just one game in four as they were knocked out of the round of 16 by Spain — and there’s definitely a chance Herdman’s side could nab something from that game against the odds as well.

Last up is, of course, Morocco in what is likely Canada’s best chance of getting a win at the World Cup. The Atlas Lions topped their qualifying group with six wins from six and beat DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate in the third round to book their place in the Middle East, but Canada arguably have the quality to beat the nation 20 places above them in the world rankings.

It is exciting to have Canada back on the global stage and in football’s greatest tournament, with players like Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies catching the eye. But it seems unlikely they are going to cause Belgium or Croatia any real issues in Group F. This is a good opportunity for Les Rogues to gain some crucial experience before they play joint-hosting duties with the US and Mexico in four years’ time, however.

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