World Cup 2022: Curious case of Canada’s rise to global prominence wearing old kits

World Cup 2022: Curious case of Canada’s rise to global prominence wearing old kits

The rapid rise of the Canadian men’s national team is illustrated by the fact they will not even be wearing a new kit at their first World Cup since 1986.

Canada face Belgium in their Group F opener tonight and, led by Geordie coach John Herdman and Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, want to make some noise in Qatar.

But, unlike other teams at the tournament, the players will step out at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in old shirts.

When Canada Soccer and Nike signed a partnership in December 2018, the team was ranked 78th in the world and their prospects of qualifying for Qatar appeared slim.

So there was nothing written into the contract to ensure they would get a new kit designed for the World Cup.

By the time they secured qualification for Qatar in March after steamrolling CONCACAF qualifying, having finished ahead of the United States and Mexico, it was too late for Nike to complete the process of designing a new kit.

But, in the shirt that first appeared in June last year in a World Cup qualifier against Aruba, Canada hope to pull off an upset or two.

Established stars Davies and Lille forward Jonathan David are the leaders of the team, while Tajon Buchanan and Ismael Kone are two talented young players to look out for. Crystal Palace and Watford are among a host of European clubs tracking 20-year-old CF Montreal midfielder Kone, who is valued at £8million.

Alphonso Davies is his country’s star man. (AP)
Alphonso Davies is his country’s star man. (AP)

But coach Herdman has been most important to the turnaround of Canada’s men’s team. The 47-year-old from Durham took over in 2018, having guided their women’s national team to back-to-back bronze medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The team was ranked outside the top 100 in the world and in his first training camp there were two separate fights between players in a fractured squad.But Herdman has built a close bond among a talented and exciting group of players.

They play an aggressive, attack-first style which sometimes leaves the open on the counter but means they should be a fun watch.

Tajon Buchanan in Canada’s kit. (REUTERS)
Tajon Buchanan in Canada’s kit. (REUTERS)

Optimism is high back home, but how Canada will fare against top-level sides is unknown.

They have been drawn in a group with three experienced teams: Belgium, Morocco and Croatia.

The Belgians will be without the injured Romelu Lukaku tonight and continue to build their team around declining captain Eden Hazard.

Of the their golden generation, Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois are perhaps the only two world-class players left in a team preparing for what could be its last realistic shot at winning the World Cup.

For Canada, this is just the start for their talented generation of players.