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Los Angeles (AFP) – Canadian coach John Herdman has instructed his team to prepare for battle as they take on the United States in a crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Sunday.
The Canadians have emerged as the surprise pack of the qualifiers of Central America, North America and the Caribbean, unbeaten in nine games and leading the final round of eight teams with 19 points.
A win over the second-placed United States in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday would provide bright daylight between Canada and the chasing pack.
With just four games to go after Sunday, victory could put ‘Les Rouges’ firmly on course for their first trip to the World Cup in 36 years.
Sunday’s game will take place at the compact Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.
Due to local Covid-19 regulations, the capacity for the game has been halved to around 12,000, but Herdman hopes the smaller crowd will nonetheless create a hostile environment for the visitors.
“It will feel tight and compact. We want the US to feel that,” he said.
“It’s a battle. It’s two teams desperate for three points and will do anything for it,” said Herdman, the 46-year-old Englishman who took over as national coach of Canada in 2018 after seven years in charge. given to the women’s team.
For so long, the rousing boys of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers—prior to this campaign, Canada hadn’t reached the final round of regional qualifiers since 1998—have forged a tight-knit group that are anything but pushovers.
They showed their abilities in November with a 2-1 win over Mexico, and on Thursday they took a 2-0 road win over Honduras.
Herdman believes Thursday’s win over Honduras epitomized the spirit of his team.
“It was important for the team to get a 2-0 on the road, and also to get our first win on the road,” he said.
“It was mainly about three points – that’s what it all comes down to. We bowed a little, but we didn’t break. I think that’s the story of the identity of this team,” said Herdman.
“It’s a special story that unfolds. It seems like every (player) is able to contribute to the journey,” he added.
“We will continue to rely on that courage, that camaraderie, that brotherhood and we will fight, that’s what it will be in every game against the US. You have to fight, it’s a cup final at home.”
The US, meanwhile, arrives in Canada after an unconvincing 1-0 home win over El Salvador in Columbus on Thursday.
However, a win over the Canadians on Sunday would give coach Gregg Berhalter’s squad valuable breathing room.
While they remain well placed to qualify, the US will still have to travel to Mexico and Costa Rica in March, traditionally awkward away games against two teams desperate for points.
Mexico, which needed two late goals on Thursday to beat Jamaica 2-1 in Kingston, will host Costa Rica on Sunday in a crucial game at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City.
Panama, which is fourth in the standings behind Mexico, will play a home game against Jamaica, while Honduras will host El Salvador in Sunday’s other game.
© 2022 AFP