Preview: Canada hopes to wield demons in Mexico in FIFA World Cup qualifying

Toronto CanadaThis would be their biggest win to date if they manage to get a result when the Canadian men’s national team continues their World Cup qualifying streak in Mexico on Thursday night – at the Estadio Azteca – a place they have never seen a win.

In fact, Canada has never won a game on Mexican soil and has beaten Mexico only three times in 36 games, with Les Rouges winning the last time in all competitions in 2000, during its historic Gold Cup winning streak.

But this Canadian men’s national team is no longer the same men’s national team as it used to be. The days of “Unattached FC” are long gone, replaced by a squad full of up-and-coming world stars such as Alphonso Davies from Bayern Munich, Jonathan David from Lille OSC, Cyle Larin from Beşiktaş or Stephen Eustaquio from FC Paços de Ferreira.

Canada is now bursting with depth, too, and Mexico only got a taste of it a few months ago in the Gold Cup 2021 semifinals in Houston, a stadium with more than 70,000 Mexican fans. On that day, when stars like Jonathan David, Cyle Larin and Alphonso Davies were all absent from Canada’s XI, Mexico got away with a narrow 2-1 win after an added-time winner.

But John Herdman and Co. hope it will be different this time around, with Davies and David likely to play a significant role. Even if it won’t be easy.

The height at the Estadio Azteca will likely play a role, as will the intimidating surroundings. Playing in front of Mexican fans in the US is one thing, but playing in front of 85,000 fans at Azteca – a place Mexico hasn’t lost since 2013 – is a whole different ball game.

As a friend of the site, John Molinaro described it in his article for Sportsnet:

“The stadium can be an intimidating place for visiting teams under the best of circumstances. In the worst of times, it’s a hostile pit: fans on the terraces are known to throw plastic bags with urine and loaded diapers at opposing players as they approach the sideline. “

All of this without mentioning the quality of Mexico, a team widely considered to be the best in the CONCACAF region.

Players like Hirving Lozano from Napoli, Raul Jimenez from Wolverhampton, Rogelio Funes Mori from Monterrey all pose serious threats to goals and are likely to be just a few of the many names Canada is making its way into this juggernaut of a match.

As it stands, Canada is only stepping into that three-game window in second place behind Mexico, which makes this game even more important – a game that, when all is said and done, could go a long way in determining whether it was a place in Qatar in 2022. The three best teams of the eight participating nations at the end of the 14-game group stage, which runs until March next year, will automatically receive a place at the World Cup.

On the injury front, Cyle Larin, Atiba Hutchinson, Milan Borjan and Lucas Cavallini are expected not to be eligible for Herdman while travel restrictions have excluded Junior Hoilett and David Wotherspoon.

Realistically, the odds against Canada are incredibly high, but if this current selection of internationals has shown one thing, it is that they won’t be intimidated.

HOW TO SEE

When: Thursday, October 7th | 9:40 p.m. ET
Where: Azteca Stadium | Mexico City, Mexico
As: OneSoccer | Sportsnet360 | FuboTV