John Herdman, the coach of Canada’s men’s nationwide soccer workforce, wears his fear on his face.
Speaking to reporters from his Slovakian resort room final week — forward of all-important friendlies towards World Cup-host Qatar in Vienna on Friday (1 p.m. ET), and Uruguay in Bratislava, Slovakia on Tuesday (midday ET) — he appeared wan, anxious, not his regular exuberant self.
He admitted that currently his nights have been interrupted by greater than jet lag.
“These last four months since June, there just seems to be so much happening,” he stated. “Some super positive, and some things that, yeah, are keeping me up at night.”
June was a reference to Canada’s earlier worldwide window, which was a debacle from the beginning. After guiding his workforce to its first World Cup in 36 years, Herdman might solely watch when all the things he’d so rigorously constructed started falling aside round him.
First, Canada Soccer’s proposed Vancouver pleasant towards Iran was cancelled as a result of it was an unforgivably dangerous thought; a unexpectedly organized stop-gap match towards Panama was then scuttled by a participant strike over their World Cup wages.
That dispute stays unresolved. And now, simply two months from Canada’s World Cup opener towards vaunted Belgium on Nov. 23, Herdman’s navigation of a litany of different dilemmas will dictate whether or not he is in a position to reply, positively, one overarching query: can he recapture the sense of pleasure, brotherhood, and predetermination that bought his workforce to Qatar within the first place?
“I’ve got no doubt difficult decisions are coming,” he stated. “There are a lot of moving parts at this point.”
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Unusual World Cup schedule
Unusually, this 12 months’s World Cup might be held within the winter to keep away from the worst of Qatar’s warmth, interrupting the European membership season. That’s compressed the fixture schedules for Canada’s finest gamers, together with Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich, Stephen Eustáquio at Porto, and Jonathan David at Lille, elevating issues of fatigue and damage.
Atiba Hutchinson, one among Canada’s religious leaders and the veteran captain of Turkish big Beşiktaş, will miss this window with a bone bruise that may sideline him at the very least till the tip of October. It can be one thing like a tragedy if he cannot play within the match he fought so onerous to attain.
“It’s a tough situation,” Herdman stated. “I can’t hide from it. If there’s anyone you want to see at a World Cup, it’s Atiba Hutchinson.”
In Hutchinson’s absence, David (Junior) Hoilett will take over as captain.
Tajon Buchanan, one among Canada’s most dynamic younger attackers, additionally has been diminished to spectating to date this season. He’s recovering from a quad damage he suffered with Club Brugge, and although he’ll be current for the Uruguay portion of the window, he is unlikely to play.
“Both club and country are trying to wrap him in cotton wool,” Herdman stated.
With any luck, Canada’s roster will not show as injury-depleted as its European counterparts, as a result of not as many Canadians play within the prime leagues. France alone is lacking a dozen gamers this window, together with Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris, and Ngolo Kanté. Germany’s Marco Reds wept after injuring his ankle taking part in for Dortmund final week, fearing he had misplaced his probability to go to Qatar.
Every nation is a slip away from catastrophe.
Another concern for Herdman
Herdman has one other, reverse concern: Several of his key gamers are Major League Soccer professionals, and so they’ll face lengthy aggressive breaks earlier than the World Cup kicks off. Worse, many are lacking the playoffs, extending their off-seasons.
On Toronto FC alone, Jonathan Osorio, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Richie Laryea, and Doneil Henry (who not too long ago suffered a hamstring damage) might be dwelling by early October.
While a brief restoration interval may need been so as, six weeks out of competitors is an excessive amount of of factor, pushing gamers previous the realm of relaxation and into the dominion of rust.
Soccer gamers are ridiculously match, in a position to drop an elevated coronary heart fee by 50 beats in a minute, however that stage of conditioning requires fixed upkeep.
So, crucially for Canada, does workforce spirit.
The Canadian males topped CONCACAF to qualify for the World Cup partially as a result of they’re younger and gifted, but in addition due to the sense of objective and unity Herdman has instilled in them.
They lugged a literal sword round, inscribed in Latin: Nihil timendum est. “Nothing should be feared.”
That’s all effectively and good when you will have to beat the likes of Haiti. Now they’re about to meet their stiffest competitors in a long time — Canada has not often confronted a workforce with the standard and ambition of Thirteenth-ranked Uruguay — spending their final frenzied hours collectively earlier than they reunite as soon as once more in Qatar to tackle the world.
No surprise John Herdman is a little bit sleepless.
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