Canada 0, Iceland 1 (Eyjólfsson 21′)
CanMNT loses final game of January camp after 2 wins
FC Edmonton’s Amer Didic plays 90 minutes, earns 2nd cap
The Canadian men’s team will return home on a down note from their camp in California following Wednesday night’s disappointing 1-0 loss to Iceland in an international friendly.
The defeat follows a pair of 4-1 victories against Barbados last week, as Canada failed to get on the scoreboard for the first time since John Herdman took over as coach in 2018.
Canada was forced to the back foot almost from the get-go on Wednesday, with Iceland putting plenty of pressure on the defence by playing very direct football.
Although FC Edmonton’s Amer Didic (who earned his second cap) and Kamal Miller were able to fend off the first few Icelandic attempts, the Canadian defenders switched off for a corner kick midway through the first half. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau may have misjudged the cross, brushing it with his fingertips, but the sluggish Canadian defence allowed Iceland’s Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson to tap it over the goal-line.
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The side in red woke up after conceding, taking over the ball with much more vigor. They saw out the opening frame with some possession and a few good looks toward goal — Liam Fraser found Sam Adekugbe on a blistering run for Canada’s best chance of the first 45 minutes, stopped by the Icelandic ‘keeper — but they went to the dressing room down a goal.
Herdman injected some new energy into his side at halftime, with 20-year-old Zorhan Bassong replacing Richie Laryea on the right flank. The Cercle Brugge fullback had an immediate impact, surging along the wing to collect diagonal passes from Fraser at least twice in his first ten minutes of action. He created a handful of chances for Les Rouges early in the half, linking up with fellow newcomer Charles-Andreas Brym.
Canada continued to press throughout the second half, dominating entirely against an Iceland side that seemed content with absorbing pressure. Tosaint Ricketts came close on several occasions, putting the ball in the net in the 68th minute only to see his goal called back for offside.
Ashtone Morgan and Jayden Nelson also entered in the second half to try and spur Canada toward an equalizer, but the fatigued side’s momentum tapered off in the final minutes of the match. Brym had perhaps the most agonizing miss of the match, putting a header over the bar in the 90th minute, but it was not to be.
The Canadians had a couple more chances with a very late surge of energy, but they were never able to beat goalkeeper Hannes Thór Halldórsson (although, in fairness, neither could Lionel Messi).
In, perhaps, slightly more positive news, Didic was one of Canada’s sturdier players at centre back, growing increasingly confident with his passes and standing tall defensively when needed.
The defeat is a blow to Canada’s quest to reach the top six in Concacaf in June, and thus “the Hex” in World Cup qualification.
They’ll lose a few FIFA ranking points, putting them essentially back where they were they began this January camp — approximately 15 points back of El Salvador, who have reportedly designated their own upcoming friendly with Iceland a training match (and thus won’t earn any points).
As it stands, Canada’s path to the 2022 World Cup would go through a Concacaf repechage tournament among the sides not in “the Hex.”
The men’s team will now look ahead to March, when the next FIFA international window opens. It’s possible they schedule additional friendlies in that period, although they’ll be vying for 2020 Olympic qualification at the same time with Concacaf’s U-23 competition.