Team Canada reflects on early exit from World Cup
Canada returned to its first World Cup in 36 years with a chip on its shoulder. It was time to show the world it could hold its own on soccer’s biggest stage in Qatar.
Yet after three matches in Group F, things didn’t necessarily go its way. Losses to Belgium and Croatia, then Morocco on Thursday, mean Canada joins Qatar as the only two sides to finish with zero points.
Following the end of Canada’s run at the 2022 tournament, head coach John Herdman and players Alphonso Davies, Alistair Johnston and Sam Adekugbe opened up on the mixed campaign in Qatar. Building for the future remains a primary target looking ahead.
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“At the start of the game, we didn't start well,” said Davies on the 2-1 loss to Morocco. “They got two quick goals and against a team of this quality. Every mistake [you make], they punish you, and they showed that today.”
“We got the one goal back, we kept fighting, but I guess it wasn't enough.”
“[Our] first time on this big stage, it's new for everybody. It’s a different atmosphere, different quality of play and we just have to get used to it.”
According to Johnston, the biggest shock to the system was soaking up the pressure of playing on soccer’s biggest stage. The atmosphere alone was an eye-opening experience.
“[The World Cup] is just played at a higher level, the emotions of a World Cup is unbelievable,” added Johnston. “That crowd was insane for Morocco. It's the craziest atmosphere I've ever been in. Playing in the Azteca still has nothing on what we just experienced there.
“[Morocco] was a team that was playing for their lives to get through. They got the result, they left it all out there and so did we. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side of the result again. But me personally, I learned that ‘Yeah, we do belong.’”
During its final game of the World Cup, Canada came inches from drawing 2-2 and picking up its first-ever point, only for Atiba Hutchinson’s header to not completely cross the line. It was heartbreak for everyone on the pitch and bench.
“They were two inches away from scoring the first points for Canada. I think everyone thought that ball was gonna cross the line. We were willing it, but it didn't,” said Herdman on the chance.
“So I think you've seen that resilience. You’ve seen our quality. This is a Moroccan team that's just won the group, and I thought we showed that spirit, that Canadian grit that we came here to show.”
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After losing all three of its matches in 1986, Canada again walks away empty-handed. It now joins El Salvador as the only two sides to have six losses from six World Cup games in tournament history.
When asked if he was disappointed with Canada’s results this time around, Herdman quickly reassured he was, instead, proud.
“I'm proud. I'm proud of what these lads have shown here. You know, I think you're always gonna walk away from this, and it's going to sting. But there isn't a game that we're not proud of,” he said.
“There's a qualitative gap at all levels, and we're trying to close that. That's what we'll be doing, and that's where we'll go … We got four years to build. But this is our first step into the big unknown and we found a lot of things out in that this team has got quality, we can compete. And we were close.”
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Adekugbe, who forced the own-goal against Morocco, shared the same positive sentiment looking ahead to the future.
“I think 'potential' is the correct word. We've shown many good moments in these three games. Obviously, we didn't get the results we wanted to, but we can see what we're capable of,” he said. “It's just about getting to that level more consistently and for 90 minutes.”
“I just think we should remember the memories [and] the results that we've gotten. We’ve [gone] to Mexico, we've beaten the United States and I think ultimately, we've left a legacy for the young players to kind of follow through on … Ultimately, we’re on the way to a better place and we just ask that everyone comes with us.”
Looking ahead, Canada now hosts the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico and has another four years to rebuild its program.