YEAR IN REVIEW: World Cup qualification, Nations League domination and a new partnership for Canada

Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams began 2018 with major shakeups.

John Herdman was appointed to the top men’s position after a successful six-year tenure with the women, winning two Olympic bronze medals and leading the squad to a World Cup quarterfinal on home soil.

John Herdman Main
John Herdman (Canada Soccer)

Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who served as Herdman’s assistant with the women’s team, replaced the Englishman.

Herdman was given the reins to the men’s national program as a whole, with officials saying the move will allow him to “refine youth programming to ensure a constant supply of elite players” to the men’s side.

Herdman replaced Ecuadorian Octavio Zambrano, who departed just 10 months after accepting the role in 2017.

March 24: Herdman era begins with 1-0 victory over New Zealand

Liam Millar pictured at men's national team camp ahead of Canadas friendly with New Zealand in Roldán, Spain. Canada Soccer
Liverpool FC’s Liam Millar pictured at men’s national team camp ahead of their friendly with New Zealand in Spain. (Canada Soccer)

Herdman picked a youthful squad for a friendly against New Zealand.

Midfielder Jonathan Wotherspoon, fullback Marcus Godinho and winger Liam Millar all earned their first call-ups and, eventually, first caps for Les Rouges.

Tosaint Ricketts smashed home the only goal of the match in the 54th minute as Canada earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Kiwis.

Millar, 18, played well, earning man-of-the-match honours from Canada Soccer.

June 10: Germany edges Canada 3-2 in front of sold-out crowd in Hamilton

A sold-out crowd at Tim Hortons Field watch Canadas women's national team take on Germany on June 10. 2018. (Canada Soccer)
A sold-out crowd at Tim Hortons Field watch Canadas women’s national team take on Germany on June 10. 2018. (Canada Soccer)

In front of an electric atmosphere at Tim Hortons Field, Canada’s women were unable to topple Germany, losing 3-2 in Hamilton on June 10.

A German goal in the first minute put Canada on the back foot, but it quickly surged back. With Christine Sinclair (59th minute) and Jessie Fleming scoring early in the second half, Canada had a lead and brought Hamilton to its feet.

Among the 24,000 supporters were members of Forge FC supporters group Barton St. Battalion.

June 13: Joint Canada-U.S.-Mexico bid to host 2026 World Cup successful

The United Bid for the 2026 World Cup features joint-hosts Canada, Mexico, and the United States. (Canada Soccer).
The United Bid for the 2026 World Cup features joint-hosts Canada, Mexico, and the United States. (Canada Soccer)

Dreams finally came true in June as Canada was named as one of the co-hosts of the 2026 FIFA World Cup following a meeting of the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow.

Men’s World Cup soccer is coming to Canada in eight years’ time, as select Canadian cities will host matches in an expanded 48-team format. Canada’s co-hosts, the United States and Mexico, formed a “United Bid” that beat Morocco for the honour of welcoming the world.

August 30: CANMNT announces squad for first CONCACAF Nations League qualifying match

KAA Gents Jonathan David, pictured here during men’s National Team Training 6 September 2018 - Bradenton, FL, USA Canada Soccer
KAA Gents Jonathan David earned his first cap for Canada’s men’s side in their 8-0 Concacaf Nations League win over US Virgin Islands. (Canada Soccer)

Nations League qualifying kicked off in September, with Canada’s men’s side looking to finish in the top six of the 34-team qualifying competition, a position that would ensure a spot in Group A of the upcoming Nations League (the competition’s top tier) and the 2019 Gold Cup.

Ahead of his side’s tilt with US Virgin Islands, Herdman put together another young squad, with four players looking for their first senior caps: Fullback Zachary Brault-Guillard (19), goalkeeper Alessandro Busti (18), centreback Derek Cornelius (20) and forward Jonathan David (18).

Herdman called five teenagers into camp, with Alphonso Davies (17) and Millar (18) joining Busti, Brault-Guillard and David.

Sept. 2: CANWNT defeat Brazil 1-0 in rematch of 2016 bronze medal match

Christine Sinclair leads Canada onto the field for a friendly against Brazil at TD Place in Ottawa. (Canada Soccer)

In what was a rematch of the Rio 2016 bronze medal match, Canada’s women beat Brazil 1-0 on Sept. 2 in front of 16,128 at Ottawa’s TD Place.

The game’s only goal came in the 49th minute when Canada broke the deadlock via Nichelle Prince.

Sept. 9: CANMNT makes history with record-setting 8-0 victory in Nations League qualifying opener

CanMNT 2

Canada’s men began their Nations League qualifying campaign with a bang, smashing US Virgin Islands 8-0 in their biggest win in international competition.

Johnathon Osorio, Lucas Cavallini (2), Jonathan David (2), Junior Hoilett and Cyle Larin (2) all scored for Canada.

David, Davies and Millar featured in the starting lineup, with 18-year-old David becoming the youngest Canadian to score in his debut.

Sept. 25: Ballou Tabla joins CANMNT for 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle

Ballou Tabla. (Canada Soccer)

FC Barcelona wonderkid Ballou Tabla, 19, joined the wave of youth with the men’s national team on Sept. 25, confirming he would join Canada ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The former Montreal Impact and Canadian youth national team winger, who made the high-profile move to Barca in January, was eligible to play for Ivory Coast.

Sept. 25: CANWNT selects squad for 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship

Heiner-Moller went with experience.

The 20 players selected had accumulated a total of 1,331 senior appearances (an average of just over 66 caps per player), with Heiner-Møller bringing back the core that won bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Oct: 14: CANWNT beats Panama 7-0 in semifinal to qualify for FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019

Janine Beckie celebrates a goal with Christine Sinclair. Canada Soccer)
Janine Beckie celebrates a goal with Christine Sinclair. (Canada Soccer)

Canada’s women booked their ticket to the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France in October by beating Panama 7-0 in the semifinal of the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship.

Panama held its own for much of the first half before Christine Sinclair nodded home an opener in the 44th minute. Sinclair would add another in the second half before Jessie Flemming, Janine Beckie, Rebbeca Quinn and Adriana Leon (2) joined her on the scoresheet.

Canada was joined by the U.S., which also won its semifinal, as the second North American side to qualify for the tournament. Canada would fall to the U.S. 2-0 in the CONCACAF title game.

Oct. 16: CANMNT smashes Dominica 5-0 at BMO Field, maintain place in Nations League qualifying

Canada makes short work of Dominica with 5-0 win at BMO Field (Canada Soccer).
Canada makes short work of Dominica with 5-0 win at BMO Field. (Canada Soccer)

Canada continued its Nations League qualifying with a 5-0 win over Dominica on Oct. 16, smashing its Carribean opponent at BMO Field in its first game in Canada in well over a year.

With a squad of eight players aged 21 or younger, Herdman shepherded a convincing win in front of the home crowd with David, Hoilett, Cavallini and Larin getting on the scoresheet.

Tabla made his debut after replacing David in the 54th minute.

Nov. 18: CANMNT edges St. Kitts and Nevis 1-0 in Nations League qualifying

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Captian Atiba Hutchison celebrates with teammates after his goal against St. Kitts and Nevis on Nov. 18, 2018. (Canada Soccer)

An Atiba Hutchinson header was all that separated Canada from St. Kits and Nevis in a testy affair in Basseterre, keeping the men’s side on pace in Nations League qualifying.

Among the 34 nations in qualifying, Canada (3-0-0, nine points) went into the final Matchday tied atop the table with Curaçao, Haiti, Cuba, Jamacia and Martinique.

The win rounded out an impressive 2018 for Canada.

Finishing 4-0-0, the side didn’t concede this year while scoring 15 times.

Dec. 8: CANWNT drawn against Cameroon, New Zealand and Netherlands in 2019 World Cup group stage

The draw in Paris was familiar for Canada, as it placed the top-seeded Canadians with two group stage opponents from 2015 World Cup in Canada: New Zealand and the Netherlands.

The competition begins for Canada on June 10 when it faces Cameroon at Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier.

Dec. 11: Christine Sinclair awarded 2018 Canadian Player of the Year honours

Sinclair New
Christine Sinclair (Canada Soccer)

Christine Sinclair was announced as the 2018 Canadian Player of the Year on Dec. 11, giving her a 14th POTY award and wrapping up another successful season for the Canadian legend.

The 35-year-old centre forward’s year was surely highlighted by scoring the winning goal that qualified Canada for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Sinclair led Canada in goalscoring for the 15th time in 19 years, registering eight goals and two assists in 12 international matches.

On the club side, Sinclair played all 2,160 minutes for the Portland Thorns as they finished second in the league. She scored nine goals, finished tied for third in the league with six assists, won the Thorns Supporters’ Player of the Year award and was named to the NWSL Second XI. In the playoffs, she helped the Thorns reach the final.

The Burnaby B.C.-native was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in January by Governor General David Johnston.

Dec. 12: Alphonso Davies awarded 2018 Canadian Player of the Year honours

Alphonso Davies (Canada Soccer)
Alphonso Davies (Canada Soccer)

Davies was awarded the 2018 Canadian Player of the Year award by Canada Soccer in December, capping off a whirlwind year for the youngster. The 18-year-old pacey wide player had an outstanding season for both club and country.

In Vancouver, Davies scored exceptional individual goals and worked as an offensive lynchpin, notching eight goals and 11 assists, leading MLS in duels won (258) and setting a record for dribbles completed (123).

As for the national team, his four assists in three matches were the second-most in a single year by a Canadian. He played all 270 minutes of Nations League qualifying, completing an incredible 95% of his passes.

The Edmonton native recently moved to Germany to begin his tenure with European giants Bayern Munich. His record transfer from the Whitecaps is set to go through in January.

Dec. 18: Canada Soccer announces apparel partnership with Nike

Canadian Soccer Association
Canadian Soccer Association

Canada Soccer closed out 2018 by announcing Nike will replace Umbro as the official footwear, apparel and equipment supplier for the men’s and women’s national teams beginning in January.

Recent Canadian Player of the Year Award recipients Alphonso Davies and Christine Sinclair were featured in the federation’s announcement video.