Could that all work for Les Rouges rather than against them, though? MLS legend Dwayne De Rosario, second in all-time goals (22) for Canada, sure thinks so as the country’s first World Cup appearance in 36 years rapidly approaches.
“I'm interested to see how we adapt to playing against teams in a World Cup environment, something that we're very immature [with], something that we're very inexperienced in and how we handle our emotions and how we play,” De Rosario said in an Extratime 1-on-1 interview.
“Now, that could benefit us though because when you're playing against Belgium, Morocco and Croatia, they're going in thinking 'Canada? Come on. We got this.' If we can sneak an early goal and be up and hold it, it could be pretty interesting."
Croatia and Belgium finished second and third, respectively, at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. World superstars like Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric are among their ranks, too. Morocco won’t be an easy opponent either, a perennial contender in the African Cup of Nations that counts Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi as their superstar.
They’re all “world-class teams,” as De Rosario noted. And they represent a step up in competition for head coach John Herdman’s team, which finished ahead of traditional regional leaders Mexico and the United States during Concacaf’s Octagonal qualifying pathway.
So, where should expectations be when Group F play unfolds from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1?
“I'm going to be very honest: It's a tough group,” said the 2011 Landon Donovan MLS MVP. “If we scrape and get out of that group, that's a huge success. I'm just happy the fact we're there and we're having the conversation of Canada being in the World Cup first and foremost.
“So my expectations, I don't really have much. I can't say that I do, being respectful of a team like Croatia, being respectful of a team like Belgium, and let's not even forget Morocco.”
DeRo on Canada's Expectations at the 2022 World Cup
Breakout star coming?
Canada will enter the World Cup with several difference-makers themselves, none bigger than Vancouver Whitecaps FC homegrown product Alphonso Davies, who stars weekly for Bundesliga powerhouse side Bayern Munich.
De Rosario thinks the world will quickly realize how much quality Canada have elsewhere, singling out winger Tajon Buchanan and striker Jonathan David as potential breakout stars on the global stage. Buchanan’s now with Club Brugge in Belgium after a transfer from the New England Revolution, while David features for Lille in Ligue 1.
“[Tajon] definitely has the speed, he has that confidence right now,” said the four-time MLS Cup champion. “He has the ability to isolate players 1-v-1 and take them on and create some great chances.
“I would love to see Jonathan David be that player. We need him to be that player going forward and Cyle Larin to step up. At the end of the day, you need to score goals. If you want to get out of the group you have to score goals, you have to beat teams.”
Whatever unfolds, De Rosario returns to the significance of the moment for Canada, with Mexico 1986 their last World Cup. They’ll be co-hosts in 2026 alongside the US and Mexico, but first comes a chance to show the world what they’re all about.
“I hope not only myself, [but also] I hope other players from the national team that have put in time and effort are a part of that experience,” said De Rosario. “That's all what we played for. That's why we stepped on the field and represented our country, is to be at the big dance. There's nothing bigger as a footballer globally, international to play in a World Cup.”
For more from De Rosario, check out his full interview here.