Ismaël Koné has only nine professional matches under his belt, and he has already been tipped as one of the great hopes in Canadian football.
Updated at 0:32
The 19-year-old midfielder gets off to a rocky start to his career. He made his professional debut with CF Montreal in February. He has already scored two goals and scored three assists under orders from Wilfried Nancy.
His performance gave him a very first recall with Canada for this international break. After playing ten minutes in Costa Rica, coach John Herdman called on his services as a starter for Wednesday’s match in Panama.
Canada also lost 1-0 in Panama City, which still allowed them to finish first in the CONCACAF Octagonal. We remember, of course, that the qualifying work was done last Sunday in Toronto.
Herdman makes no secret of it: he wants to show off his young Canadian players so they quickly have the chance to play in Europe in the biggest competitions.
“I want to allow these players to have this experience,” he commented at video conference after Wednesday’s meeting. We want to push these players into these competitive environments where they can have that Champions League experience. The Davies, David, Larin, Hutchinson, and Borjan families had these experiences. They played in hostile places, they understand the stakes of big matches. We want to build that as a team. »
The day before, Herdman had even specifically targeted two other CF Montreal players with pretty much the same words.
“I hope to see players like Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller take the next step and play in the best European leagues,” he said. […] When you see the American players playing in clubs in the Champions League, we scratch our heads a bit to see our Canadians still playing in the MLS. »
Koné is still in his infancy, as evidenced by his performance on Wednesday. He started his fight nervously, though he eventually found his rhythm. But it is still that if Canada noticed his talent quickly, he must not be the only one who has taken notes.
Montreal fans who follow CF Montreal know that sporting director Olivier Renard’s current strategy is to play and acquire young players to potentially sell them at a high price.
With Koné, it could quickly bear fruit. But it is still necessary that we do not rush into development. Will there be disagreement on this plan between club and selection?
“Canadians are realistic,” Herdman said Wednesday. We have a good team, but it requires five or six players who play on top teams in the starting lineup. These guys not only have to play in the top five leagues, but they have to play against the top teams on a regular basis. That’s what the research tells us if we analyze the last 15 world championships. That is what we are pushing for. »
A game with no real stakes
The Canadians qualified for the World Cup last Sunday in Toronto. Panama had at the same time seen their dreams come true against the United States. The effort was therefore at a minimum for this meeting.
Panama took the lead in 49and Min.25, ‘failed chance, kick of Gabriel Torres on a beautiful cross from Cristian Martinez.
After a quiet first half, the match opened up at this point. Changes on both sides helped in this regard.
Alistair Johnston fell brilliantly back in 58and with a furious rush to the surface before tackling the Panamanian striker perfectly. This match confirmed a very good Canadian camp for the defender of CF Montreal.
Maxime Crépeau had the opportunity to assert himself for this last match, he who generally played the role of second place behind Milan Borjan in these qualifications. He excelled especially at the 77and on a good low shot to his right.
The beginnings of Cyle Larin and Junior Hoilett pushed Canada forward. By the 80sandwe thought Maple Leaf had equalized, but Larin’s goal was eventually rejected for offside after checking the video replay.
We talked about minimal stakes: the only one left in Canada was to win to try to improve its FIFA ranking as best as possible. He could thus have been part of the third hat – instead of the fourth – in Friday’s draw. Which would have given him the opportunity to be put together with a weaker team when he formed the groups.
But it will not happen. And it’s not very serious. Canada finished first in its pool ahead of Mexico (on goal difference) and the United States. And he is qualified for the World Cup.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, took fourth place and will face New Zealand in the playoffs.
“I would never say we only want to go to Qatar to participate,” Herdman said. We definitely want to go there to compete. […] Our mission from day one has been to score Canada’s first ever World Cup goal. We want to get our first point, and maybe get a first win so we can get out of the group. »
“We will continue to defy the odds.”
Next time for Canada is the group draw on Friday.