Canada’s National Men’s Team kicked off their September window with a dominating 2-0 win over Qatar in an international friendly on Friday.
Cyle Larin and Jonathan David both struck in less than 15 minutes as Canada secured a comfortable win for the remainder of the course.
Here are three key takeaways from Friday’s game as we look to the friendly against Uruguay on Tuesday:
DOUBLE PIVOT EXCELS
Given that Atiba Hutchinson and Jonathan Osorio were injured, that left Canada with just four fit midfielders for those two September friendlies.
Canada coach John Herdman had used a variation of a double pivot in at least eight of Canada’s previous 10 games, but the reduced depth only improved his chances of using a midfield pair .
Samuel Piette ended up earning the green light alongside Stephen Eustaquio with Mark-Anthony Kaye still winning in match form and Ismael Kone playing as an impact substitute with CF Montreal.
However, Piette and Eustaquio are also in scintillating form entering this window for their respective clubs, only strengthening the argument that they should start together.
The hour they played together was nothing short of perfect and proved that Herdman’s decision was the right one.
They really did everything in this game. For example, Piette (No. 6) and Eustaquio (No. 7) regularly won second balls and hit quick passes when possession was lost.
They shuttled to combine with the wide players to create triangles down the flanks and dragged Qatar’s compact 3-5-2 downfield before hitting quick switches to stretch their defensive form even further.
There were also vital defensive interventions.
Piette eventually left the game for Kone (No. 8) and the 20-year-old made an immediate impact off the bench.
If Sam Adekugbe hadn’t caught that pass instead of Ike Ugbo, the latter could have been behind and had a cleaner shot on goal.
The only question now is whether the Eustaquio-Piette partnership has enough pace to keep up with a more dynamic team, like Uruguay, Japan or Belgium. These are Canada’s next three opponents and they will surely put that theory to the test.
Kone injected more speed when he replaced Piette but lacked the defensive awareness to fully optimize a two-man midfield. These are the puzzles Herdman will have to think about over the next few days.
LARIN REWARDS FAITH
Cyle Larin’s appearances for Club Brugge this season have been brief to non-existent. Benching the men’s national team’s all-time top scorer as the World Cup fast approaches is a bold move, and Larin has generally done the business for his country over the past 18 months, regardless of or the situation of his club.
Herdman’s commitment paid off as Larin scored within four minutes via a header. The defense on goal was questionable at best, but it clearly supported the 27-year-old for the remainder of the half.
Larin had a good chance a few minutes later. As Canada made their way quickly through the Qatar high line, Larin executed a run behind with Alistair Johnston providing a deadly through ball behind. The Canadian striker tested goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb with a dazzling shot at his near post to no avail.
All in all, it was an active game for Larin, who came out at half-time, possibly training him for the friendly against Uruguay in a few days.
PREPARING FOR URUGUAY
The result was basically guaranteed after 15 minutes. Canada had full control and Qatar didn’t often threaten Milan Borjan’s goal. This meant that the preparation for Uruguay started early.
Canada started the game with a full-back four off the ball, which had Sam Adekugbe at left-back, Kamal Miller and Steven Vitoria at centre-backs and Alistair Johnston at right. In possession, the two full-backs pushed to form a fluid 3-4-3.
That changed after Canada took a 2-0 lead. Instead of reverting to a 4-4-2 without the ball, Canada went to a back five when they lost possession of the ball.
Yet they also reverted to 4-4-2 with four players along the back line – although that involved Eustaquio covering substitute Richie Laryea in the following stretch.
The back five could be Herdman’s strategy for the game against Uruguay. The plows having a lethal midfield and quality wide forwards, so loading up the half-spaces and central channels could be a smart strategy.