Canada are set to kick off their first World Cup campaign since 1986 on Wednesday, facing Belgium at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
The North American side qualified for the tournament after concluding the Concacaf cycle in first place with 28 points from 14 games, edging out Mexico and the United States. Now, as Canada prepares for their first World Cup match in 36 years, head coach John Herdman insists the team will seize every opportunity.
“That’s the opportunity we have here,” Herdman said before their Group F opener. “Coming into a game like this, we don’t have a great amount to lose, just a genuine opportunity to make it our cup final.”
Beyond the underdog label, the CanMNT players are focused on qualifying for the round-of-16. But it won’t be an easy journey, as Group F boasts Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco.
“We’re beyond excited that we made it to the world’s biggest stage, but I just want to be clear that we’re not here just to enjoy or participate. We’re here to get a job done,” said veteran defender Steven Vitoria.
“You know, we believe within our group. So I think, with the quality that we have and the brotherhood that we have, we can go as far as we want to go,” added midfielder Jonathan Osorio.
Canada failed to advance beyond the group stage in 1986, losing all three games to sit in fourth place behind the Soviet Union, France, and Hungary. But this current CanMNT side are determined to make history and are equipped with the talent to do so.
“We believe in what we can do as a team. We’ve played against a lot of good squads, good players and we trust in ourselves. We trust in each and every one on the team,” concluded 39-year-old Atiba Hutchinson.