Just a few years ago, the concept of the Canadian Men's National Team qualifying for the 2022 World Cup seemed abstract at best.
Les Rouges' only previous appearance at world soccer's biggest tournament came back in 1986, when they returned home from Mexico without a point or goal against the Soviet Union, France, and Hungary.
But a revolution has been picking up steam within Canadian men's soccer, spearheaded by English coach John Herdman, who first took charge of the CanMNT in March 2018. In just four years, he's made the Canadian dream a reality, with his side opening their World Cup campaign against Belgium on Wednesday.
"He had the vision long before anybody else did. Nobody there was thinking about 2026. We were all focused on the next thing right in front of us — which was the chance to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar."
With a star-studded attack including the likes of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Canada are not to be underestimated in Qatar. Nevertheless, the last time the nation made the World Cup, Herdman was a 10-year-old boy living just outside Newcastle in the north of England.
The reality of what he's achieved is yet to truly sink in.
"I still have moments where I'm pinching myself, like when we arrived in Doha here," said Herdman.
"It's going to be a hell of a ride," he added. "I'm going to be rubbing shoulders with world-class coaches like Roberto Martinez. And for me, that's where I want to be - on that razor's edge and letting people from Consett, County Durham, know that anything is possible. Anything is possible."
Already an icon in Canada, Herdman will surely make himself an honorary Canadian if he helps deliver the CanMNT's first-ever World Cup point, with fixtures against Croatia and Morocco to come after Wednesday's opener.
Read more about Canada's World Cup campaign:
- Cyle Larin & Tajon Buchanan on John Herdman & CanMNT's World Cup campaign
- Canada World Cup 2022 guide: Key players, injuries, tactics & tournament prediction
- The top 5 Canadian players at the 2022 World Cup - ranked
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