John Herdman confident Canada can 'exploit' World Cup opponents

Chris Smith
Herdman is already thinking about the World Cup.
Herdman is already thinking about the World Cup. / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Canadian Men's National Team head coach John Herdman is confident his team can 'exploit' their World Cup opponents, pointing to the nation's unique qualification path.

The CanMNT have made it to soccer's most prestigious tournament for the first time since 1986 and just the second time in their history, finishing above the United States and Mexico in the Concacaf group.

Canada have been drawn into a tough World Cup group alongside Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco. Right now, the focus is on the upcoming Concacaf Nations League match with Honduras following a 4-0 win over Curaçao. But Herdman has admitted he's already looking ahead and planning for their opponents in Qatar, who will be a complete step above what this team has faced so far.

And if anything, Herdman is confident that Canada can mix it with their Group F counterparts, who are ranked second, 16th, and 24th in the world, respectively.

“There's things that we're working on internally,” Herdman explained. “There are areas Canada can exploit in each one of those opponents. Then we have a foundation, which is this team spirit, this brotherhood that we've created. We don’t fear these teams and that's a starting point, but then you have to have a tactical blueprint that allows these players to go in with that mindset. The strategy has to support the mindset and the strategy has to be aligned to the skillset of the players.”

While the likes of Belgium and Croatia are more talented than Canada on paper, they certainly won't have taken in the same unique experiences in qualifying.

The Reds' quest for Qatar 2022 began way back in March 2021 with a first-round group stage campaign against the likes of Aruba, Bermuda and the Caymen Islands. From there, Canada advanced into a playoff against Haiti, winning 4-0 on aggregate to make the final round. Finally, Canada finished top of that 14-game group stage, playing a total of 20 matches in some of the most unique settings you're likely to find in soccer before finally sealing their spot at the World Cup.

“I think that level of tactical excellence came through in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying (campaign). To go into those different environments, you need a different type of tactical blueprint here," Herdman noted

“We had the toughest qualifying with the 17-odd games, which meant as a group, we've learned to become very adaptable and I think that's an X factor going into this World Cup.”