Canada blanks Qatar for comfortable win to open pre-World Cup friendlies

Early goals from Cyle Larin and Jonathan David helped Canada to a comfortable 2-0 win over World Cup hosts Qatar in a men’s international soccer friendly on Friday in Vienna, Austria .

Canada controlled large parts of the match and built their 2-0 lead after just 13 minutes in a largely empty Generali Arena. Qatar, five places below Canada in the world rankings at No. 48, failed to impress on the day.

The Canadians, who faced Qatar for the first time, will face a tougher test on Tuesday when they take on 13th-placed Uruguay in Bratislava, Slovakia.

There was a moment of concern in the second half with Alphonso Davies needing treatment after getting tangled up with Ismail Mohammad in the 57th minute. The Bayern Munich star was able to walk away, albeit cautiously, as he made way for a substitute.

“I think he’s fine. He was sitting on the bench smiling. So I think he’s fine,” Canada coach John Herdman said after the game.

Canada wasted little time with Larin scoring in the fourth minute. The Club Brugge striker rose high to head home with a Sam Adekugbe cross, launched just outside the Qatar penalty area, for his 25th goal, a Canadian men’s record in 53 appearances.

David doubled the lead in the 13th minute after diving Qatar keeper Saad Al Sheeb fired a cross from Miller, but only towards two waiting Canadians. Davies fell, losing his footing, trying to reach the ball, but David was there to knock it home for his 22nd goal in 33 games for Canada.

David, who is under contract with Adidas, covered the Nike logo on the Canada jersey with his right hand as he celebrated the goal. There have been discussions on social media recently about Canada, unlike other teams, not unveiling a new World Cup kit.

Canada nearly scored the third goal from an 88th-minute free kick, but Ike Ugbo’s header was saved by the Qatar keeper and Kamal Miller’s rebound attempt hit the crossbar.

David (Junior) Hoilett, who won his 48th cap, captained Canada in the absence of injured Atiba Hutchinson.

WATCH | Chris Jones breaks down the state of Canada’s men’s team:

Canada faces tough international tests against Qatar and Uruguay ahead of World Cup

CBC Sports’ Chris Jones breaks down the biggest storylines ahead of the upcoming CanMNT friendlies against Qatar and Uruguay.

Game controlled from the start

Friday’s match was Canada’s first against an Asian opponent since November 2016, when they lost 2-0 to South Korea. Canada coach John Herdman expected a well-trained opponent with Qatari players largely drawn from national teams, with Al Sadd and Al-Duhail leading the way.

The World Cup host will play out of Group A at the World Cup with eighth-placed Netherlands, No.18 Senegal (reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions) and Ecuador No. 44.

The Canadians, who open the World Cup on November 23 against second-placed Belgium in Group F, used the flanks to attack Qatar’s condensed defence.

After losing early, Qatar had a chance in the 10th minute after a Canadian gift in their own game. But Mohammed Waad’s shot went straight for Milan Borjan.

Abdelaziz Hatim came close in the 36th minute when his shot from the edge of the penalty area curled just wide of the post, prompting Borjan to yell at his defenders to intervene.

Canada had 62 percent possession in the first half. Both teams made changes at the break, with Canada sending Richie Laryea to replace Larin. Charles-Andreas Bryn, Ismael Kone and Ugbo followed the Canadian bench in a triple change on the hour mark.

Qatar showed more determination in the second half, but failed to break through the Canadian defence, offering little in attack.

Laryea went close in the 63rd minute but his shot from close range was blocked, as was Ugbo’s shot on the rebound. Liam Millar, back to the national team after being sidelined with a broken arm, came on in the 67th minute.

Mark-Anthony Kaye entered in the 74th as Herdman, aware of the heavy club load some of his players had been under, used his bench generously.

First meeting since contract dispute

For the Canadians, the European camp is a first meeting since an ill-fated June rally in Vancouver when players refused to play a friendly against Panama due to a contract dispute. The team broke the stalemate to face Curaçao and Honduras in CONCACAF Nations League matches on June 9 and 13. But contract negotiations continue.

Canada’s final World Cup warm-up is Nov. 17 against 24th-placed Japan in Dubai.

Herdman has other injury issues with Club Brugge winger Tajon Buchanan likely to only make the bench for the game against Uruguay if he is healthy. Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry, who suffered a hamstring problem on the eve of camp, is with the team, but action is not expected. His TFC teammate Jonathan Osorio stayed at home to deal with “neurological dysfunction” resulting from an elbow to the head during an MLS game in mid-July.

Despite the injuries, Herdman fielded a strong line-up with Miller, Steven Vitoria and Alistair Johnston ahead of Borjan with Adekugbe and Hoilett at the back and Samuel Piette and Stephen Eustaquio in midfield with Davies, David and Larin leading the attack.

Piette was influential in midfield, often joining Eustaquio in stifling Qatar’s attacks.

The Canadian starting 11 entered the match with a total of 428 selections, led by Borjan (65) and Piette (62).

The uncapped Joel Waterman (CF Montreal) and Luca Koleosho (Spanish Espanyol) started on the bench. Koleosho, 18, has yet to pledge international allegiance to Canada. Born to a Nigerian father and an Italian-Canadian mother (born in Montreal), he has options.

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