CanMNT

John Herdman embracing World Cup 'underdog' role as Canada draw Belgium, Croatia & Morocco

Chris Smith
Herdman has guided Canada to their first World Cup since 1986.
Herdman has guided Canada to their first World Cup since 1986. / Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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The Canadian Men's National Team have learned their fate at the 2022 World Cup and despite getting a tough draw, head coach John Herdman is unfazed.

Canada reached Qatar 2022 - their first World Cup since 1986 and second ever - in style, finishing top of the Concacaf Octagonal above the United States and Mexico.

But from here, things will only become more difficult. Canada have been drawn in Group F alongside 2018 semi-finalists Belgium, 2018 finalists Croatia, and Morocco, who qualified for this tournament with a 100 percent record, 20 goals scored and just one allowed.

Following Canada's final qualifying match on Wednesday - a dead-rubber 1-0 defeat to Panama - Herdman insisted his team will go into the tournament with 'absolutely no fear'. Despite seeing the draw, his tune remains the same, welcoming the challenge of playing against some of the world's strongest teams.

“We wanted those type of games,” Herdman said after Friday's draw. “You go into a World Cup, there are no easy matches. And I think any team can beat any team on a given day. That’s just tournament football.

“Belgium, we know their quality (with) players like DeBruyne and Lukaku and what they’ve done on the international stage. And then the Croatians, who four years ago were (World Cup) finalists."

Given their absence on the world stage and sharing a qualification campaign alongside US and Mexican teams that have qualified for World Cup a combined 27 times, Canada were always going to be seen as underdogs.

But that was a role the Canucks thrived in, losing just two of their 14 games and posting the best offensive and defensive records in Concacaf. It's a role Herdman looks forward to embracing again.

"I mean, this is what we want. We want that underdog story," Herdman continued. "We'll be at our best when we really on our grit and spirit, and then to bring that no fear.

"That opportunity that exists in them types of games, against the best players in the world. Players like Alistair Johnston, Kamal Miller, and Jonathan Osorio, Canadian boys get the chance to match themselves [against them], but also tell a story in those games.

"For us, there will be a 'no fear' mentality and not naive, but no fear coming into this. Just see the opportunity to pioneer for this country and get after scoring that first goal for Canada at a World Cup."

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