Canada are heading into their opposition’s den with an opportunity to cement their place in 2018-19 Concacaf Nations League Qualifying. The November match is expected to provide Canada with new sets of challenges at the home of Caribbean rivals St. Kitts and Nevis, but the Canadian squad will come prepared as they continue to raise their bar on the road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™.
Talent, experience, and youth are the highlights of the Canada squad, which have won the first two of four matches in 2018-19 Concacaf Nations League Qualifying. While Canada sits third out of 34 nations with two wins and 13 goals scored, they head into St. Kitts and Nevis searching for their first-ever goal in official competition at Warner Park Football Field in Basseterre.
“We are really looking forward to this challenge as St. Kitts and Nevis have performed well in Concacaf Nations League thus far,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach. “Given our history in this venue, we know it is a tough place to get a result, but we are clear on our approach and the players will be ready.”
Canadian fans can watch the 18 November away match live on Concacafgo.com at 19.00 ET / 16.00 PT (20.00 local). Fans can also follow the team across Canada Soccer’s digital channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, including behind-the-scenes coverage throughout their one-week camp abroad.
At stake are spots in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup and 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League Group A. From 34 nations, the top 10 will qualify for the biennial Concacaf Gold Cup while only the top 6 will qualify for Group A of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League, joining already qualified nations Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and USA.
“It’s a big game for sure and we will have a few things to manage in St. Kitts and Nevis from heat to pitches to jet lag, but nothing that this group can’t handle,” said Herdman. “It’s actually that to which we are looking forward: a good test of our team spirit. This game will create some valuable learnings for the team as a whole as many of our players haven’t ventured this deep into the Caribbean for games. We need these uncomfortable experiences now to ensure we have a level of readiness for even tougher matches that we will encounter in the coming years.”
The Canada squad features plenty of leadership, notably six-time Canadian Player of the Year Atiba Hutchinson who ranks fifth all time in appearances (79). Hutchinson stars with Beşiktaş JK, Junior Hoilett stars with Cardiff City in England’s Premier League, and goalkeeper Milan Borjan stars for Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade who are currently in UEFA Champions League.
Borjan’s goalkeeper partners for this match are Simon Thomas of Kongsvinger IL (Norway) and Maxime Crépeau of Ottawa Fury FC. Centre back David Edgar (also with Ottawa in 2018) is the lone returning player from Canada’s last trip to St. Kitts & Nevis in 2011 while 28-year old midfielder David Wotherspoon of St. Johnstone FC (Scotland) is in his first year with Canada.
Eight players all still between the ages of 23 to 25 are Samuel Adekugbe of Vålerenga Fotball (Norway), Lucas Cavallini of Puebla, Manjrekar James of FC Fredericia (Denmark), Cyle Larin of Beşiktaş JK, Doneil Henry and Russell Teibert of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Jay Chapman of Toronto FC, and Samuel Piette of Impact de Montréal.
From Canada’s first two matches in Concacaf Nations League Qualifying, Cavallini and Larin lead the way with three goals each. Junior Hoilett, meanwhile, has two goals and two assists.
Unavailable through injury is Jonathan Osorio, who recently underwent a successful sports hernia repair after the MLS season. Scott Arfield remains in Scotland in anticipation of the birth of his family’s next child.
Canada’s next generation has also shown plenty of promise through the competition thus far. Jonathan David of KAA Gent in Belgium scored three goals and two assists in the first two matches while Alphonso Davies, now of FC Bayern München in Germany, recorded four assists.
Canada’s other teenagers with big European clubs are Zachary Brault-Guillard of Olympique Lyonnais, Liam Millar of Liverpool, and Ballou Tabla of FC Barcelona. While Davies made his international debut in 2017, the other four have all made their debuts in 2018. Along with Alessandro Busti (currently away at the Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship), this marks the first time since 1984 that Canada has debuted five teenagers at the international “A” level in the same calendar year.
Other youngsters still 21 or younger are Derek Cornelius of FK Javor Ivanjica (Serbia), Liam Fraser of Toronto FC, and Marcus Godinho of Heart of Midlothian (Scotland). Shamit Shome of Impact de Montréal will also make the trip to St. Kitts & Nevis as a training player to ensure more top youth players are gaining experience in the Men’s National Team environment. From the official squad, Fraser is the only player yet to make his international debut.
CONCACAF NATIONS LEAGUE QUALIFYING
Amongst 34 qualifying nations, Canada are in third place on goal difference after an away 8:0 win over US Virgin Islands and a home 5:0 win over Dominica. The qualifying campaign runs through March 2019, after which the top nations will be ranked on points (three points for a win, one point for a draw), goal difference, goals scored, away goals, and then fewest yellow/red cards accumulated.
The 18 November match against St. Kitts and Nevis will be just the third all-time meeting between the two nations, with Canada having won a 2011 home match 4:0, but drawn 0:0 away at Warner Park in FIFA World Cup™ Qualifiers. In 2018-19 Concacaf Nations League Qualifying, St. Kitts and Nevis won their home match 1:0 over Puerto Rico in September and then their away match 10:0 over Saint Martin in October.
In their last nine home matches at Warner Park since 2016, St. Kitts & Nevis have posted a record of six wins, one draw, and two losses while posting five clean sheets.
For Canada, their 2018 record features three successive wins with clean sheets against New Zealand (1:0), US Virgin Islands (8:0), and Dominica (5:0). Those two wins and 13 goals in Concacaf Nations League place them in third place behind leaders Curaçao (+15) and Haiti (+14). The top-10 nations all have back-to-back wins with fourth to 10th place rounded out by Cuba (+13), St. Kitts and Nevis (+11), Jamaica (+10), Dominican Republic (+8), Nicaragua (+8), Martinique (+5), and El Salvador (+4).
The 18 November match will close out Canada’s 2018 season with a chance to go perfect 4-0-0 for the first time in Men’s National Team program history.
1- GK- Simon Thomas | NOR / Kongsvinger IL
2- FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | FRA / Olympique Lyonnais
3- CB- Manjrekar James | DEN / FC Fredericia (on loan)
4- CB- Derek Cornelius | SRB / FK Javor Ivanjica
5- CB- David Edgar | CAN / Ottawa Fury FC
6- M- Samuel Piette | CAN / Impact de Montréal
7- M- Russell Teibert | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
8- M- David Wotherspoon | SCO / St. Johnstone FC
9- F- Cyle Larin | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
10- M- David Junior Hoilett | WAL / Cardiff City FC
11- FB- Samuel Adekugbe | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball
12- W- Alphonso Davies | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
13- M- Atiba Hutchinson | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
14- W- Liam Millar | ENG / Liverpool FC U-23
15- CB- Doneil Henry | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
16- FB- Marcus Godinho | SCO / Heart of Midlothian FC
17- M- Liam Fraser | CAN / Toronto FC
18- GK- Milan Borjan | SRB / FK Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
19- F- Lucas Cavallini | MEX / Puebla FC
20- F- Jonathan David | BEL / KAA Gent
21- M- Jay Chapman | CAN / Toronto FC
22- GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Ottawa Fury FC
23- AM / F- Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla | ESP / FC Barcelona B