Canadian national team right at home in Qatar, looks ahead to new era with friendly against Japan

Canada's Simeon Jackson in action against Panama

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of CSA

From all the praise coming from the Canadian national team camp, Qatar sounds like it'll be a hard place to leave.

The team has been training for the past few days in the Middle East in advance of Friday’s friendly against Japan (noon ET, streamed on Sportsnet.ca in Canada) and it has been duly impressed with the facilities in the country that will be hosting the 2022 World Cup.

“Everything that we have seen so far, it’s top notch,” Canada national team interim head coach Tony Fonseca said in a conference call on Tuesday. “The quality is fantastic. The fields look pristine. It’s definitely top-notch facilities in a country that has received us with great honor.”

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Canada take to the pitch at the Khalifa International Stadium on Friday against a Japanese side that’s a win away from qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. The venue will be one of the host sites in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Canadians are back featuring a mostly European-based squad after opting for North American and younger players for two friendlies in January.

Fonseca, whose day job is technical director with the Canadian Soccer Association, is just in charge for the two games this month as the search for a full-time men’s head coach continues.

With a number of the squad in camp back in the squad for the first time since Canada meekly bowed out of World Cup qualifying last year, Fonseca admits he’s sensed a desire to earn some redemption.

“They definitely want to paint a different picture than the one that we last saw. They will be very committed to it,” Fonseca said of the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, Julian de Guzman and Simeon Jackson (above), all of whom are likely to feature on Friday. “I think we’re all very excited to have this opportunity and they’re pumped to play tomorrow.”

Fonseca confirmed that he’ll be going for experience to take on the Japanese – who are odds-on to qualify for their fifth straight World Cup qualification when they face Jordan next Tuesday, March 26. Canada will remain in Qatar to take on Belarus a day earlier.

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Fonseca was asked if this group is a glimpse of how a Gold Cup squad may look and responded that it’s all up to whoever is coaching the team, though he expects many of those in Qatar will also be in the US this summer.

When pressed to say whether he thinks that means there will be a new full-time coach in charge of the team for the Gold Cup, Fonseca simply responded that “it’s not for me to say, but I will hope so.”