It’s about to get very real for the Canadian men’s soccer team.
Friday’s draw in Doha will determine Canada’s opening-round opponents for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which runs from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18 in Qatar.
Canada clinched its first World Cup berth since 1986 (it’s only previous tournament appearance) following a 4-0 win over Jamaica in Toronto on Sunday. The Reds closed out their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 loss in Panama on Wednesday, a result that still allowed them to finish in first place in CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record.
But while they finished atop their region, Canada dropped five spots in the world rankings released Thursday, from No. 33 to No. 38. That means Canada is grouped with the lowest-ranked teams for the draw, which increases the likelihood of facing two of the top 10 teams in the world in their opening stage.
Canadian coach John Herdman, however, didn’t seem too concerned with the outcome of the draw, saying Canada’s performance means not too many nations will be eager to face Canada in Qatar.
“When you look at the campaign, when you look at 20 games, and a team that has finished on top of Mexico and USA, I think it has to turn heads,” Herdman told reporters after the loss in Panama.
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The 32 World Cup teams have been divided into four pots based on the latest FIFA world rankings that were released on Thursday. The draw on Friday will divide the 32 teams into eight first-round groups at the World Cup.
Pot 1 consists of the hosts Qatar and the top seven ranked teams. Pot 2 contains the eight teams ranked 9-16, and teams ranked 17-24 are in Pot 3. Pot 4 has the five lowest-ranked teams — which includes Canada — along with three placeholders for the two intercontinental playoff winners and the European playoff winner.
A slight monkey wrench has been thrown into the proceedings, as three nations have yet to qualify for the World Cup.
Costa Rica faces New Zealand on June 13 or 14 in the CONCACAF-Oceania playoff, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup. Australia meets the United Arab Emirates on June 7 to determine the Asian playoff winner who will face South American qualifier Peru later in the month, with the winner of that intercontinental playoff also qualifying for Qatar. Scotland hosts Ukraine in early June (the game was originally slated for last week but was postponed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) for the right to play Wales in Cardiff later in the month. The winner of the European playoff will also clinch a World Cup berth.
Here are the four pots (world rankings in parentheses) for Friday’s draw.
POT 1: Qatar (51), Brazil (1), Belgium (2), France (3), Argentina (4), England (5), Spain (7), Portugal (8)
POT 2: Mexico (9), Netherlands (10), Denmark (11), Germany (12), Uruguay (13), Switzerland (14), United States (15), Croatia (16)
POT 3: Senegal (20), Iran (21), Japan (23), Morocco (24), Serbia (25), Poland (26), South Korea (29), Tunisia (35)
POT 4: Cameroon (37), Canada (38), Ecuador (46), Saudi Arabia (49), Ghana (60), European playoff winner, Africa-South America playoff winner, CONCACAF-Oceania playoff winner
The draw will start with each team from Pot 1 being drawn into one of the eight groups: Group A-H. As hosts, Qatar automatically goes into Group A.
Once Pot 1 has been drawn, they’ll move onto Pot 2, then Pot 3 and finish with Pot 4. After each team is selected, a second draw will be held to determine the position for each nation within the group. Pot 1 teams are automatically assigned position 1 in each group — so, for instance, Qatar is A1. The positions are important because they determine in what order the teams in each group will face each other.
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It’s also important to note that countries from the same confederation or geographical region cannot be drawn into the same group. So, for example, South American sides Brazil and Uruguay can’t be in the same group. However, this rule doesn’t apply to Europe. As there are 13 European nations, there will be at least one and no more than two in each group. This means that five out of the eight groups will have two European teams.
The geographical restrictions also mean that Canada can’t be drawn against fellow CONCACAF nations Mexico and the United States from Pot 2. As a result, Canada will end up being drawn against one of the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Uruguay, Switzerland or Croatia from that pot. The same constraints mean Canada can’t be drawn against the CONCACAF-Oceania playoff winner from Pot 4.
Canada was 33rd in February’s rankings, and had the Canadians won in Panama on Wednesday, it would have climbed to No. 30 and leapfrogged Tunisia (No. 35) in the rankings, which meant it would have gone into Pot 3. This would have increased the probability of Canada being placed into an easier group at the World Cup.
As it stands, Canada is in Pot 4, so it could theoretically be drawn into a group with two top European teams (such as Germany and Serbia), and either Brazil or Argentina. Unless the Canadians get lucky and draw Qatar from Pot 1, they will end up with two countries ranked in the top 16 in their group — and it could be two in the top 10 if they are drawn against the Netherlands from Pot 2.
But Canadian coach John Herdman didn’t seem too bothered by the missed opportunity of being placed into Pot 3. He pointed out that his team only lost twice in 20 qualifying games, and finished top of the CONCACAF standings ahead of Mexico and the U.S., who are both ranked in the top 15.
“We can go into this World Cup with absolutely no fear,” Herdman said. “No one really expects Canada to go and win it. I don’t think many people would expect us to get out of the group… [But] we’ve travelled thousands of miles, we’ve played lots of minutes, we’ve kicked every ball, we’ve never quit, and we’re on our way to Qatar. [We’re] No. 1 in CONCACAF. I’ll sleep well tonight.”
Published at Thu, 31 Mar 2022 13:02:24 +0000