Canada near kick-off against Belgium in first World Cup game in 36 years

Canada are about to kick off against Belgium in their first World Cup match in 36 years.

Despite various injury question marks in the days leading up to the opener, star striker Alphonso Davies and key midfielder Stephen Eustáquio were part of manager John Herdman’s starting XI. Milan Borjan got the go-ahead in goal.

The match kicks off at 2 p.m. ET at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

Canada last appeared on men’s soccer’s biggest stage in 1986, where they lost three straight games without scoring a goal.

But after taking first place in CONCACAF regional qualifiers ahead of the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica, Canada should do more damage this time around. Canada booked its ticket to Qatar with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica in March in Toronto.

Armed with one of the world’s elite players in Davies, who shines at club level for Germany’s Bayern Munich, as well as Lille striker Jonathan David, the Canadian side have the talent to shake up more established opponents.

Drawn into Group F alongside second-placed Belgium, 12th-placed Croatia and 22nd-placed Morocco, the 41st-ranked Canadians have a tough road to the knockout stage.

Earlier on Wednesday, Croatia and Morocco drew scoreless.

Watch Soccer North live immediately after each of Canada’s matches on CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports YouTube channel

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Canada asserted its claim to Qatari territory.

During qualifying, the Canadian men traveled with a sword bearing the words “Nihil timendum est”, which means “Fear nothing” in Latin. The sword is now in Qatar.

The finale of Canada Soccer’s ‘Anything is possible’ documentary series shows captain Atiba Hutchinson with his sword, surrounded by his teammates in a circle in midfield at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday, the day before the Cup opener of the world of Canada against Belgium.

“The dreams are all here in this stadium,” Hutchinson said. “We are here now. Let’s go and make the most of it. Let’s put our country on the map. Let’s all make each other proud, make our families proud, make everyone behind us proud.

“We’ve worked so hard to be in this position here now. So let’s go tomorrow. Let’s start flying. Let’s fly for everyone. Alright? Let’s do it boys. Tomorrow.”

Hutchinson then rams the sword into the turf to the cheers of his teammates, with injured keeper Maxime Crepeau watching from afar via a phone.

The players then huddle together with a chorus of “brothers” at three.

In March, after the Canadians qualified, coach John Herdman explained that the sword was “something that symbolizes the ‘New Canada’.

Tradition was derailed during a trip to Central America to face Costa Rica in qualifying before Jamaica’s victory.

La Nacion, a Costa Rican newspaper, reported that customs officers seized the sword when the Canadian team arrived by charter.

Canada’s national soccer team took their sword almost everywhere in World Cup qualifying, and now it’s in Qatar. (Costa Rican Ministry of Finance via The Associated Press)

Without the epee, the Canadians saw their 17-game unbeaten streak in CONCACAF qualifying ended in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. But there was a happy ending.

“We got it. We got it back. It was in that territory [at BMO Field]”, said a happy Herdman about the sword after the victory against Jamaica.

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