Previous World Cup appearances: 1986
Best finish: Group stage (1986)
World Cup record: W0 D0 L3
Biggest win: No wins
Player to watch: Alphonso Davies
Fixtures: Belgium (November 23), Croatia (November 27), Morocco (December 1)
Canada’s appearance at the 2022 Qatar World Cup will mark an end to 36 years in the wilderness.
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The team is expected to struggle to make it out of a difficult group that includes Croatia and Belgium but a strong qualifying campaign has raised hopes they could yet spring a surprise or two and reach the knockout phase for the first time.
Canada has previously featured at only one World Cup, the 1986 tournament in Mexico. Their historic appearance was marred by three defeats in the group stages to France, Hungary and the then-Soviet Union.
Participation in the 1986 competition marked the high point for Canadian football that would remain unmatched for several decades, until now.
But it also proved a chastening experience for the players, with the side unable to score a single goal and conceding five across 270 minutes of action.
They were one of only two teams at the tournament not to score a single point, alongside Iraq, who enjoyed a superior goal difference to the Canadians.
Canada will hope to recapture their qualifying form when they begin their World Cup adventure on November 23 against Belgium.
The side topped the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifying group, winning eight of their 14 games and recording shock victories against the higher-ranked United States and Mexico.
All eyes on Davies
Canadians will be looking to the prodigiously talented Alphonso Davies, 22, for inspiration in Qatar.
Typically deployed as a left wing-back for his club side, German giants Bayern Munich, Davies is renowned for his blistering pace, dribbling and shooting.
For Canada, he often plays further forward, allowing him to occupy spaces behind prolific frontman Jonathan David and giving him greater opportunity to dictate attacks.
Already widely regarded as the finest player in the CONCACAF grouping of countries, Davies will now have the opportunity to demonstrate his talent on the global stage.
His career to date has been decorated with an array of trophies, including four Bundesliga titles, several domestic cups, a UEFA Champions League winners medal and a FIFA Club World Cup triumph.
Tough road ahead
Despite the excitement building around Davies and David, also 22, the Canadians are not anticipated to make it out of Group F given the quality of Croatia and Belgium.
But manager John Herman has called on his players to relish the experience of playing in the tournament and urged them to push themselves to their limits against the likes of Croatian star Luka Modric and Belgium’s array of world-class performers.
He has said the team has an opportunity to create a “generational shift” in Canada – where football has often been crowded out by ice hockey and other more popular sports – and “create memories that will last forever” for the country’s 38 million people.
While a run to the knockout phase is unlikely, a competitive showing in the group stage would still herald significant progress for Canadian football as the country prepares to host the 2026 World Cup, alongside the US and Mexico.
For Davies and David, this year’s tournament will provide a platform from which they can potentially launch their already well-established careers to even greater heights yet.