Qatar offers little resistance to Canada on the road to the FIFA World Cup

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VIENNA, Austria — It was an impressive performance for Canadian men’s soccer, but a 2-0 victory may have revealed more about Qatar than John Herdman’s team.

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As hosts, Qatar is the only one of the 32 countries competing at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November that didn’t need to qualify. This may prove detrimental as they haven’t played many official matches for almost four years and it shows.

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Qatar have set up camp in Austria and are taking on any opponent willing to make the trip, but apparently haven’t improved much. It is likely that Qatar will be reduced to just three World Cup games, grouped with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.

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Canada, meanwhile, have played in more qualifying matches than any other country in the world due to Concacaf’s unbalanced process, designed to make the road to the World Cup as easy as possible for the United States and Mexico.

Canada had the last laugh, topping the latest Concacaf qualifying group and rebounding from the June international window debacle.

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Canada’s game against Iran was called off, due to backlash surrounding the Iranians shooting down a commercial plane, and replaced by Panama, only for the players to boycott the contest in a dispute over qualifying bonuses for the World Cup with Canada Soccer.

The dispute is still unresolved, but the team’s attention is back on the pitch with the tournament less than two months away.

In the first of two games in the final international window before the World Cup, Canada looked impressive against Qatar and it took just four minutes for Cyle Larin to score. The Club Brugge striker moved past stagnant Qatar defenders and headed a cross for Sam Adekugbe past former goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Herdman sent an attacking team against Qatar, which is preparing for the World Cup by facing international and club opponents.

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Larin, Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies formed the attacking pair, supported by attacking midfielders Stephen Eustaquio, Samuel Piette and Adekugbe. Steven Vitoria, Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnston held the fort at the back, while Milan Borjan, sans his gray track pants, started in goal.

After Larin’s goal, Canada turned the ball around with ease in the first half and pretty much opened up the Qatar defense at will.

David gave Canada a 2-0 lead in the 14th minute, cleaning up a lap ahead. The game was started by Miller, who fired in from the left corner of the penalty area, which was driven back by Al Sheeb to Davies in front. The Bayern Munich star rolled over the ball and it squirted at David, who pushed it home.

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Davies had a great chance to increase the lead when sent off with an excellent pass from Johnston, but his first touch was too heavy and the ball strayed away from him.

Just 15 minutes into the second half, Davies limped off the pitch with an apparent calf injury. He received a few heavy tackles and the second took him down holding his left calf.

Shortly after, Herdman emptied his bench and substitute Ike Ugbo should have given Canada a three-goal lead when the ball fell to him in front of an open net after a run into the box from Richie Laryea. Ugbo, however, was a little too flippant with the finish attempt and had his shot blocked by defender Boualem Khoukhi.

Miller missed a late keeper by rebounding off the crossbar after Al She stopped a header from Ugbo, which came late from a Junior Hoilett free kick.

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Canada entered the final international window excited to face someone outside of Concacaf, but in reality Qatar proved to be an appetizer for the main course, which will be Uruguay on Tuesday. The South American team will be the best opponent Canada has faced since being invited to Argentina ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

At the time, Diego Maradona wanted a soft opponent for his Argentines in their send-off match in Buenos Aires and Canada obliged, offering little resistance in a 5-0 defeat.

This Canadian team was one of the worst ever, while the current team is the best, so they should give Uruguay a better challenge.

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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