After three consecutive Concacaf Gold Cup tournaments where they failed to get out of the group stage, the Canadian national team put in a surprisingly strong campaign in the 2017 tournament and made the quarterfinals.
In 2019, they're aiming to do more than surprise by qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Canada's road in the group stage was unveiled on Wednesday by Concacaf, as they learned they will play in Group A, against perennial contender Mexico, and Caribbean sides Cuba and Martinique. For head coach John Herdman, the goal will be to use the Gold Cup to build upon the project of improving the national team in each successive challenge.
“Following a strong showing in Concacaf Nations League qualifying, we need these tougher tests now,” Herdman said in a Canada Soccer release. “The Concacaf Gold Cup will be important for our preparations for FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”
Herdman, who took over the CanMNT from the Canada women's national team in January 2018, successfully guided Canada through Concacaf Nations League qualification, where they not only clinched a berth in the Gold Cup but also in Group A of the Nations League, which will kick off in the fall with Les Rouges taking on Cuba and border rival USMNT.
While Mexico have defeated Canada in four of the countries' last five meetings, Canada have beaten Cuba in their last two matches and have an even 1-1-2 record against Martinique. In this expanded 16-team Gold Cup format, the top two teams from each group will qualify for the quarterfinals, and with a young and promising squad that includes the likes of Alphonso Davies, who was the joint top scorer and selected Best Young Player at the 2017 Gold Cup, Canada want to build on their showing two years ago and perhaps even shoot for the heights that last saw them win the Gold Cup, in 2000.
“We have a talented group, but now they will be fully tested in a tournament setting,” said Herdman. “The team are motivated to do well for Canada.”