The Canadian men’s team, for the first time in well over a year, was back on the pitch Thursday night with a World Cup Qualifying win, 5-1 over Bermuda.
With a pair of first-half goals from Cyle Larin and a flurry of other chances causing no end of trouble for the Bermudans, Canada was in the driver’s seat for effectively the entire match, with Richie Laryea, Larin again, and Theo Corbeanu piling on the offence in the second frame.
So, Canada’s bid to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup opened with a bang, with another Group B contest coming up on Sunday against the Cayman Islands (who fell to Suriname on Wednesday).
With Les Rouges finally back, there’s plenty to dissect and debate as the qualifying cycle officially begins.
Here are three immediate thoughts that stand out from Thursday night’s win.
It’s funny how a player who starts for arguably the best club team in the world might dominate against lower-ranked Concacaf sides, eh?
Still, great things were expected of Alphonso Davies in this game, and he absolutely delivered. Davies seemed entirely committed to being the face of this Canada team — every attacking play seemed to come through him, and he was quick to claim almost every set-piece opportunity. He bagged three assists, and could’ve had at least a couple more quite easily.
We haven’t seen Davies in a Canada jersey since his true breakout at Bayern Munich — since he last played for his country, he’s won pretty much every trophy available at the club level and become a truly world class player. He looked like one against Bermuda, with the way he took defenders on and played incisive passes into the middle.
It’s unclear what exactly the Bermudan goalkeeper was thinking trying to beat Davies in a footrace to a loose ball before the second Canada goal, but it worked out pretty well for the Canadians.
If this is what we can expect from Davies when he suits up for Canada going forward, the future is very bright.
A good problem to have
Canada scored five goals against Bermuda (just short of the eight or nine they probably could’ve had), and they did it all without Jonathan David.
Going into this qualification cycle, it looks like there’s going to be real competition for places in the attacking setup for Canada — even for opportunities off the bench. Cyle Larin certainly looked like a player who has scored buckets of goals recently for Besiktas; his form and fitness played no small part in his hat trick (so did Davies though, to be fair).
Lucas Cavallini didn’t have the best of nights, with the Vancouver Whitecaps forward understandably missing some sharpness — a couple of his chances seemed destined for the back of the net. It didn’t seem to matter for Canada, though.
It’s unforgivable to go this long without mentioning Theo Corbeanu, as well. The Wolverhampton Wanderers teenager came on as a substitute and immediately lived up to the hype, with an energy and confidence matched only by Davies himself. Corbeanu scored an excellent goal on his debut, and he picked out David Wotherspoon with a few incredible passes.
What this all means is John Herdman has a lot to think about with his squad selection. It’s unlikely Canada has ever had this kind of attacking depth on the men’s side.
Match fitness remains the key
There was a clear difference on Thursday night between the Canada players with recent professional minutes and those without. Davies and Larin, for instance, were in top form, allowing them to play at top speed for almost the whole game. Lucas Cavallini, meanwhile, had a few sluggish moments in front of goal.
Even Atiba Hutchinson, who is mid-season in Turkey with Besiktas, looked lively in midfield against some overmatched and exhausted opposition.
None of Canada’s MLS players — Cavallini, Kamal Miller, Samuel Piette, and so on — looked particularly sharp, with the obvious exception of Richie Laryea, whose pace hasn’t gone anywhere.
The good news is that Canada has such depth that it didn’t really bother them at all. The goal conceded wasn’t exactly a defensive breakdown — more a fluke handling error from Milan Borjan — and the in-form attackers were easily dominant enough to carry the game.
It’ll be interesting to see if the trend continues on Sunday against the Cayman Islands; a goal or two from Cavallini, in particular would be good for confidence.