Looking to improve the Canadian national team’s chances of qualifying for the next World Cup, Canada Soccer has revealed that its men’s side will play Trinidad and Tobago in a pair of upcoming friendlies.
Canadian coach John Herdman made the announcement on Friday afternoon during a press conference held at Pacific FC’s Westhills Stadium, where Canada will host Trinidad on March 27 and 31.
Herdman and the Canadian team are looking to play as many matches as possible between now and June in order to secure a more direct qualifying path for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Under new rules, the top six teams in Concacaf, based on the FIFA world rankings in June 2020, move on to “the Hex,” the final round of qualifiers for the region. The top three nations in “the Hex” then directly qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
Canada is currently seventh in the Concacaf region (at No. 73 in the world), behind Mexico (No. 11), the U.S (22), Costa Rica (46), Jamaica (48), Honduras (62), and El Salvador (69). Trinidad is ranked 104th the world, good enough for 11th in Concacaf.
In order to crack the top six by June and advance to “the Hex,” Canada has to win games like the ones against Trinidad in order to earn valuable ranking points and move up the ladder in Concacaf. According to the last FIFA ranking published in December, Canada trailed El Salvador by 31 points. Canada Soccer says that gap is now down to 14 points.
“We are still in the hunt for the Concacaf Hex and we have cut the points gap in half through Concacaf Nations League,” Herdman said in a media release. “We are focused on doing our best to pick up points and close the gap on that sixth spot in Concacaf.”
Should Canada not advance to “the Hex,” it would be forced to compete in an arduous secondary Concacaf qualifying competition (which would include a group stage and subsequent knockout rounds), with the ultimate winner then facing the fourth-place finisher from “the Hex” in a two-game series.
The winner of that series would then have to play a home-and home playoff against a nation from outside Concacaf (either from Asia, South America or Oceania) with a World Cup berth at stake.
Canada’s only World Cup appearance came in Mexico in 1986, when it bowed out in the group stage after suffering three shutout losses. The last time the Canadian men’s team made “The Hex” was during the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup in France.
The game between Canada and Trinidad takes place during the March international window, which runs March 23-31. So, theoretically, Herdman would be able to call up any Canadian player for the match and their pro club would have to release them for international duty.
Canada leads the all-time series against Trinidad and Tobago, with seven wins and two losses in 11 matches dating back to 1977.