One does not simply walk into Europe and get a result—especially if one is a member of Canada’s national team.
But on Wednesday, Les Rouges did something they haven’t done in nearly seven years: they traveled across the pond and tied a European team, earning a 1-1 draw against Scotland in Edinburgh. (Their last such result was a 2-2 draw against Ukraine in Kiev, back in 2010).
The friendly was Canada’s second match of 2017, following a 4-2 win over Bermuda in January, and the first since the appointment of Octavio Zambrano as the team’s new full-time head coach. Zambrano was on hand on Wednesday night, but it was interim coach Michael Findlay, who will stay on as one of Zambrano’s assistants, that was at the helm against Scotland.
Regardless of who was on the sidelines, the Canadians played with a poise and confidence that, if it can be replicated, should put them in good stead at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Here are three other big takeaways from the Scotland encounter:
Good Canadian lads
The game was a homecoming of sorts for both Scott Arfield and Fraser Aird, both of whom once harbored dreams of representing Scotland on the international stage.
Arfield was born and raised in Scotland, and hadn’t even visited Canada until last year, when he reported for his first national-team camp against Mexico in Vancouver. Aird was born in Toronto to Scottish-born parents, and made a number of appearances for Scotland’s youth teams before being lured back to the Canadian fold in 2015.
Both made an impact on Wednesday, with Aird earning Man of the Match honors for the visiting side, smashing home his first international goal in the process. For Scotland fans disappointed by not beating Canada, it was especially cruel to see the shining influence of not one, but two former Scotland youth players.
Work smarter, not harder
Too often, Canadian teams have been content to lump balls up the field, without any particularly sophisticated plan in mind. On this day, however, the team managed to be much more intelligent in possession, threading the ball forward in ways that likely shocked the Scottish team and its fans.
Given Zambrano’s bona fides as an attack-minded manager, it is difficult to think that this is a complete coincidence—and that should come as a relief to Canadians who grew weary of former manager Benito Floro’s defense-first approach.
Inviting themselves in
With most MLS players (including the likes of Cyle Larin, Will Johnson, Tosaint Ricketts and Tesho Akindele) staying with their clubs, this camp was a chance for a few relatively fresh faces to ingratiate themselves with the senior side. Eight of Canada’s 18 players came into this camp with five or fewer caps, and a handful (notably, former Vancouver Whitecaps teammates Fraser Aird and Marco Bustos) made strong cases for themselves.
With Zambrano overseeing this month’s Under-23 camp (which will feature somewhat familiar faces like Jordan Hamilton, Michael Petrasso and Keven Aleman, as well as newcomers like Caniggia Elva and Juan Cordova), it’s clear that the time for young Canadian players to get into the mix for the team’s 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign is right now.