While Canada’s women are competing in front of raucous crowds at the Women’s World Cup, Canada’s men are set to begin their own long and winding World Cup qualification campaign.
And the head coach of the Canadian men’s national team is looking to the women’s national team – who drew more than 53,000 fans to their World Cup opener on Saturday against China – as a bit of inspiration for his squad.
“The women, in this case, are in good position to call support and to get a lot of people to the stadium,” Benito Floro told reporters on Tuesday. “For us, it’s another motivation, to go ahead and to win the Gold Cup or qualifiers.”
With that in mind, Floro is certainly not overlooking Dominica, Canada’s opponent in their first two qualifiers of the Russia 2018 campaign. Les Rouges will face the tiny Caribbean nation in a two-legged matchup, playing at Dominica on Wednesday before heading to Toronto for the return leg at BMO Field on June 16.
“My feeling always is the same as a professional – to take the eliminatory game with a lot of seriousness, a lot of intensity,” he said. “First of all, we need to win the eliminatory [games] and take advantage of these two games to practice, in a very good sense, everything we need to increase.”
To that end, he has named a squad with numerous veteran players, including Julian de Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson (who picked up an injury and will miss the games), Lars Hirschfeld and Kenny Stamatopoulos. In addition to providing vital experience, Floro said that long-serving members of the team help to “create a good spirit in the young players."
“They are important for every game,” he said. “Jules for example as a captain, or Lars or Kenny … for us, it is very important [to have them there].”
Even so, no one is guaranteed playing time in the Dominica games. Three players – Will Johnson, Tesho Akindele and Mallan Roberts (who was a late replacement for an injured Dejan Jakovic) – are in training camp under Floro for the first time. But Floro suggested he would not give playing time to Akindele or Roberts – who are eligible for the US and Sierra Leone, respectively – specifically for the purpose of cap-tying them to Canada.
“All the players who are in the roster have the possibility to play, one minute, 30 minutes, the full game,” he said. “We consider that both Tesho and Roberts have the possibility to play some minutes. What matters at this moment is to be here and to learn how to play in our system.”