Canadian men’s soccer team named team of the year by the Canadian Press
The Canadian men’s soccer team, which has won a legion of fans by returning to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, has been elected The Canadian Press team of the year.
This is the second year in a row that a football team has won this award. The Canadians won in 2021 after their Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
« It’s a huge honour, » said Canada’s men’s coach John Herdman. « I think it’s a testament to the sacrifices, the hard work that went on for over two decades behind the scenes – the struggles for many former players, staff and coaches, for the organization, I think for everyone. world. »
READ MORE: Canada’s men’s national soccer team has lessons to learn after long-awaited return to World Cup
Herdman also coached the Canadian women’s team that won the PC team of the year award in 2012 after winning bronze at the London Olympics. He took over the men’s team in January 2018 when it was ranked 94th in the world.
Unlike the Canadians, who have qualified for seven of the previous eight World Cups and have already booked their ticket to the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand, the Canadians had only appeared at one World Cup before. Qatar – in 1986 in Mexico where the team failed to score a point or a goal.
Qualifying for Qatar involved a grueling 20-game schedule for the Canadians, who turned heads by finishing atop the CONCACAF Final qualifying round robin.
Herdman’s team qualified March 27 in a 4-0 victory over Jamaica on a cold afternoon at BMO Field in Toronto.
Canada qualifies for first Men’s World Cup in 36 years
« A talented young group of athletes have ended one of the longest droughts in Canadian sports history and put the country on the world soccer map, » said Victoria Times columnist sportswriter Brian Drewry.
« Rarely has a country – in a non-Olympic year – rallied so much to a group of athletes, » said The Globe and Mail’s Phil King. “The team’s drive to qualify, its subsequent trip to Qatar and the inspiration it provided to Canadians of all ages will go down in the history of Canadian sport.
« I have no doubt that somewhere a young boy playing football is saying, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll play in the World Cup one day. It’s powerful.
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The depth of support for the efforts of the men’s soccer team was demonstrated by the fact that they edged out three champion teams.
The soccer team received 23 votes in the Canadian media poll while the Davis Cup team, which won a first-ever tennis world title in November by beating Australia, finished second with 19 votes. The women’s hockey team, which won gold at the Beijing Olympics and the world championship in Denmark, finished third with five votes.
The men’s 4×100 relay team of Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse received a vote for their gold medal at the World Championships in Athletics in July in Eugene, Oregon. The relay quartet, whose Canada-record time of 37.48 seconds was the fastest in the world this season, had the only other vote outside of the top three teams.
“The deepest field I can remember. So many worthwhile choices,” said Rob Grant, sports team editor at The Toronto Star.
The Canadian men, then ranked 41st in the world, faced it in Group F in Qatar, alongside No. 2 Belgium, No. 12 Croatia and No. 22 Morocco. Canada drew congratulations for his performance in their first 1-0 loss to the Belgians and, thanks to a second-minute header from Alphonso Davies, scored a first-ever goal in the men’s soccer showcase before losing 4-1 to Croatia.
READ MORE: Alphonso Davies named Canada Soccer Player of the Year after scoring at World Cup
The Canadians finished the game in a 2-1 loss to Morocco.
« This group of players and staff over the past four years have really bonded and come through probably the toughest qualifying campaign through a COVID window, » Herdman said.
« And then we were able to step onto the world stage and inspire people through our performances, let people know that we are a footballing nation and that we can score goals in a World Cup against good teams. «
The degree of difficulty in Group F was illustrated by the fact that Croatia and Morocco both qualified for the semi-finals where they lost to Argentina and France respectively. Croatia then beat Morocco 2-1 in the third place qualifier.
And even though the Canadians fell short of a first World Cup win, they did attract fans for their play.
“I think a lot of people expected Canada to be a passive team that would defend to counterattack. said Herman. “There was a refreshing excitement about how Canada decided to play at this World Cup.
« And I think that really helped our players, that we were able to attack in a way that allowed us to see our attacking qualities. »
Participation in the World Cup has already led to transfers to Europe for Canadian defender Alistair Johnston (Glasgow Celtic in Scotland) and midfielder Ismael Kone (Watford in England).
Including the three World Cup losses, the Canadian men went 7-7-1 in 2022. Herdman now looks to the 2026 World Cup, which Canada will co-host with the United States and Mexico.
He believes the future looks bright after Qatar, which he describes as a « solid base » for 2026.
« People are excited to see where this country and this team are going to get to in 2026. » he said. “I think any stigma that surrounded Canada as a hockey nation (rather than a football nation) has been lifted.
« I think people were really impressed and felt refreshed by an aggressive, forward-thinking style of play. »
© 2022 The Canadian Press