From the abyss to the World Cup!

What is rising faster than inflation and the price of petrol?

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Canada’s football rating.

After the women, gold winners at the Tokyo Games, it is now the men who shine. On Sunday, they got their ticket to the next World Cup. This feat puts an end to a 35-year-old lethargy in which Canadians have visited the abyss of international football, and have been lost there for too long.

At low, it was very, very dark.

That was 10 years ago. have you forgotten? This is because the Reds played in total indifference.

Between October 2012 and August 2014, the national team played 15 matches. She won no one. At the same time, they lost 8-1 against Honduras, and lost to kittens such as Martinique and Mauritania (in a friendly match). Worse: it canceled 0-0 against … Saint-Christophe-et-Nevis.

What ?

Is this a real country, Mr Chronicle writer?

Yes, yes, I swear to you.

Open Google Maps. See you in the West Indies. Do you see the small goldfish-shaped island between Anguilla and Antigua? Well, that’s it, the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis (abbreviated Saint Kitts and Nevis). A country less populous than Blainville, and whose national stadium is twice the size of the University of Montreal. Fortunately, our representatives had won the return match. But it gives you a good idea of ​​the depths that Canadians come out of. From memory, I do not remember any other national team making such a spectacular comeback in such a short time.

How do you explain this sudden success?

It is not the result of a single decision, but of a series of initiatives, explains the director of CF Montreal’s academy, Patrick Leduc, who played a few matches with the national team in 2005..

Leduc grew up in the 1990s on the South Shore. We went to the same high school, at the same time. Mine comrades played with him. Even then, he was three crosses over the best. Three times in the summer, he says, he went to tournaments in the United States to meet players other than Quebecers. The level was good, he remembers. But it is incomparable to the level of adversity that the best players in the country face today, from their teenage years.

“What has changed the most in recent years is the level of opposition,” he analyzes. To illustrate his point, he gives the fictional example of the Bulgarian hockey team.

“If the Bulgarians only play each other for years, they will never be able to compete in the World Cup. If that is their goal, they will have to face the Canadians, the Russians, the Swedes. To make progress, it requires quality opposition. This applies to both hockey and football. ”

Canadian players, he said, are better prepared than before for the match, which is played in the zone to which Canada belongs, CONCACAF. Young people are also quickly exposed to high-quality opposition, especially within the academies of Canadian MLS clubs, such as the one he leads at CF Montreal. In these programs, they have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the hopes of other MLS clubs.

Several national team players grew up in these structures. This is especially the case for star player Alphonso Davies (Vancouver), Jonathan Osorio, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Liam Fraser (Toronto), as well as goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau (Montreal).

“These academies have contributed greatly to the growth of elite football in the country,” noted Soccer Quebec CEO Mathieu Chamberland. “Moreover, the success of the Canadian team coincides with the growth of these academies.”

In fact, says Mathieu Chamberland, the quality of development has increased across the country. Never before has there been such a large pool of quality players in Canada. Among the crucial factors, he emphasizes the improvement of infrastructure.

In the 1980s and 1990s, elite players already trained five times a week, 10 to 12 months a year. Summer, outdoors. In winter, on a hard surface, in a school gym. Today, the hopefuls enter a large surface lawn, in July as in December.

These training centers have made it possible to significantly improve the supply of sports studies. Take the case of Louis-Riel high school in the Ottawa region. Since 2005, students have had access to the Dôme, an indoor stadium that allows them to play all year round, regardless of weather conditions. Star striker Jonathan David and gold winner Vanessa Gilles came from this program. The rookie from the national team and CF Montreal, Ismaël Koné, was trained at CS Saint-Laurent, located in the district of the same name, where a magnificent indoor football pitch was inaugurated in 2017.


John Herdman, head coach of Canada’s men’s national team

Finally, it should be noted that Canada recruited excellently.

It starts with the man in charge of the program, John Herdman. The British-born coach is competent, valued and respected by all. His presence is an asset in convincing players of dual nationality to line up for Canada, rather than their country of birth or the state in which they are now established. The national team’s recent successes and the fact that Canada will host parts of the 2026 World Cup are two other great business cards to seduce international players.

And the best part of it all?

The golden age of Canadian football has only just begun.

With this qualification, the enthusiasm that will surround the 2026 World Cup is expected to increase in registrations in the next decade. And the larger the pool of players, the more intense the competition, and the better the chances of finding a nugget.

Canada will not become France or Germany overnight.

But he should no longer be afraid of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis for a while.

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