Canada’s Tactical Path Out of Group F at the World Cup

Can Canada qualify out of Group F at the 2022 World Cup and advance to the knockout Round of 16?


Is it likely? Will it be easy? Is it an impossible task?

No to all 3 of the above.

Canada's Alphonso Davies at the 2022 World Cup.
Alphonso Davies

Canada is in a difficult group with 3 other nations replete with quality players; players with numerous major competition caps for their countries, players with big price tags playing for some of the best teams in the world. Not just De Bruyne and Modrić; Kovaćić and Ziyech at Chelsea, Hakimi at Manchester City, Brozović and Lukaku at Inter Milan… the complete list is too long to itemize here.

There is however the potential for Canada to cause an upset and with the rosters announced, we here at BAS have put our heads together to try and outline a tactical path that could see Canada cause an upset in their group and advance ahead of two of Croatia, Belgium and Morocco.

While BAS believes the key to winning World Cup matches is to simply play every Brampton soccer player on the roster, as much as possible, we’re also sincere enough to try and map out a realistic approach to Canada’s success.

Match 1 vs. Belgium

Since his completely dismal experience at Chelsea, Belgium’s premier striker Romelu Lukaku has been struggling with injury and played a grand total of only 5 matches (256 minutes total) for Inter Milan in Serie A and the Champions League combined. He has scored 2 goals and assisted one. That is not prime Lukaku and that is good. Canada’s weakest point is its defense and facing a Belgium side without their pre-eminent attacker is very, very helpful to the cause.

In addition to Lukaku’s poor season thus far, Belgium’s anticipated defensive starters are comprised of a back 3 and 2 wingbacks who may well be held together with Victorian era machinery, such is their age. Alderweireld is 33, Vertonghen 35, Dendoncker 27, Meunier 31, Carrasco 29. This is significant for Canada because one of our strengths is the speed and ability we are able to inject into our transitional attacks. David, Davies, Buchanan, Laryea running full tilt at defenders who no longer have the pace they used to is something exploitable.

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne at the 2022 World Cup.
Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne is in phenomenal form this season (as usual) and it’s next to impossible to stop him from imposing himself on a game; but we have to try. Without abandoning the attacking style of play Canada prefers, always on the front foot and looking to transition quickly, we have to assign someone whose primary responsibility it is to simply ‘bother’ De Bruyne and make his life as difficult as humanly possible. We won’t win the midfield battle against Belgium, but at the very least someone needs to make De Bruyne miserable for 90 minutes.

Beyond that Canada should hope that Belgium’s manager Roberto Martinez is nostalgic for the good old days and chooses to over-utilize an out-of-shape, rarely-called-upon, Edin Hazard rather than turning to an extremely in-form Leandro Trossard who has been out-performing a lot of the Premier League’s household names for Brighton this season.

In sum, despite Belgium’s FIFA ranking as the second best national team in the world, this is the match where Canada may want to do their absolute best to cause this World Cup’s biggest upset.

Match 2 vs. Croatia

While Croatia may sit further back in the FIFA rankings than Belgium and while their star player, Luka Modrić is old, just as Belgium’s defense is, this is still going to most likely be the least likely opportunity for Canada to earn any sort of points from.

Croatia’s strengths work ideally towards nullifying Canada’s strengths and ultimately that means overall quality and experience are the two key factors that will most likely dictate the end result.

Croatia’s defense is no longer built with the aging legs of Dejan Lovren and Domogoj Vida. Canada will instead be expected to try and outplay youngsters Jośko Gvardiol and Josip Sutalo, two players who are set to receive extremely expensive bids from some of Europe’s biggest clubs in the next 12 months.

Croatia's Luka Modrić at the 2022 World Cup.
Luka Modrić

As for the midfield battle, Modrić, Kovaćić and Brozović have over 300 caps for Croatia between them and it can be argued that this is perhaps the strongest midfield core in the entire 2022 World Cup. Yes, Canada could, like they should with Belgium, look to shut down Modrić, but that will just free up Kovaćić and Brozović to do just as much damage. In short, Eustáqio, Osorio, Hutchinson, Kaye, Piette, Kone are all going to have their work cut out for them against Croatia’s midfield.

The one area where Canada can potentially receive a reprieve against a team ideally suited to beat them, is Croatia’s attack. They just don’t have an out and out striker that is anything near the level of someone like Mario Mandžukić. Kramarić is a hot/cold striker who can be neutralized with aggressive defending and Petković, while being a battering ram of a human, isn’t exactly a world class striker and you never know which one of “Bruno that scores goals” or “Bruno that does sweet-F-all” will show up for a match? This is where Johnston, Vitoria and Miller will stand a better chance of suppressing an attack and that just leaves Laryea, Buchanan & Adekube with the job of keeping tabs on Perisić and Vlasić (not easy).

It’s the World Cup, every game is a one off and anything can happen… …but this is probably Canada’s least likely chance at earning points.

Match 3 vs. Morocco

Morocco's Achraf Hakimi at the 2022 World Cup.
Achraf Hakimi

3-5-2 could be the key to ensuring Canada secure group stage points against Morocco. The key here is shifting Alphonso Davies into a central role as a 10 for Canada with Osorio and Eustáqio partnering him. Davies presence in the middle sitting behind Larin and David would give Morocco’s dynamic fullbacks, Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui something else to think about and force them to tuck in a bit to support their central defenders.

On the right, Ziyech could be pitted against any combination of Laryea/Johnston, Buchanan/Johnston or Hoilett/Johnston. Osorio partnering Eustáqio would give Canada the ability to break the lines efficiently providing Davies with multiple opportunities to pressure Morocco’s defense. Eustáqio himself should be a viable 1-v-1 match up with Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal.

How does it all play out?

With our assessment here, Canada’s potential advancement beyond the group stage would result in 1 to 3 points taken from Belgium, none against Croatia and 3 against Morocco. Would 4 points be enough? Not likely. Would 6? Theoretically yes. But, it’s the World Cup, anything could happen.

Regardless of the result, it’s important to keep in perspective that Canada has made its first World Cup in 36 years, with a roster of amazing young stars who are constantly improving, and we’re co-hosting 2026. There’s a lot of good things happening right now, particularly for Brampton’s soccer community as we finally start to get national and even global recognition for how potent and rich our football culture is. So soak it all in, enjoy it, stay positive and cheer the team on. And WHEN they win their first World Cup game, take to the streets with your Canada flags and honking horns.

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