Canada's Jonathan Osorio: Playing De Bryune, Modric at World Cup a "dream"

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio is one of the Canadian men’s national team’s most experienced players, now approaching 60 appearances after they topped the Concacaf Octagonal standings to book a spot at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

And it’s that very tournament where Osorio will get to realize a “dream” after learning Friday that Les Rouges are drawn into Group F alongside Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.

Their European foes lean upon two of the world’s top midfielders, with No. 2-ranked Belgium driven by Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia home to Real Madrid’s Luka Modric.

“Two midfielders that I admire, the two midfielders I admire the most in fact in the whole world,” the 29-year-old said. “I was a fan of Real Madrid growing up as a kid and so to play against Luka Modric is a dream and to play against so many good midfielders on each team and even in Morocco, this is what you dream of as a player, as a person. As a footballer, you want to play against the best.”

Jonathan Osorio Canada

But don’t expect Osorio and his teammates to be intimidated when entering Canada's first World Cup experience since 1986, this trip snapping a 36-year absence from the world’s biggest soccer spectacle.

Their whole qualifying journey began in March 2021 and extended nearly two dozen matches, stretching from first-round tests vs. the likes of ​​Aruba and Bermuda through taking eight of 12 points (home wins, road draws) from regional powerhouses Mexico and the United States.

“Now, looking forward, it just gives us belief that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to,” Osorio said. “Going into this World Cup, I know people from the outside see our group and don’t give us the best of chances. But with us within, within the team and the group, we know we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.”

Osorio, who recently scored his 50th TFC goal across all competitions, originally joined the Reds in 2013 as a homegrown player. He’s seen highs and lows with the club, and should reach 250 regular-season appearances during their 2022 campaign as the Bob Bradley era further takes root.

It’s all led to a World Cup opportunity with group-stage games spanning from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1 and Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain) another superstar that awaits. Soon the Brampton-born midfielder will get to prove himself on the Middle East's grand stage.

“Watching the draw was an incredible experience,” Osorio said. “None of us have gone through that with waiting for your team to get drawn out. Just an incredible moment for the whole country, for everybody involved in the program.

“It was also a little bit of a nail-biter because we were the very last team," he added. "But nonetheless, with the group that we were picked in and everything, it’s exciting. We’re playing against three very, very strong teams. It’s not an easy group at all, but when you’re going into a World Cup all groups are hard and you don’t expect to get put in an easy group. That’s not what we’d want anyway. I think we’re all happy, as Canadians this is a very proud day for us.”