These matches, even against familiar foes, are still useful in preparing for those showdowns in Qatar. Canada was clearly leaning on quick, vertical passes down the wings on the counter on Thursday, which might behoove them versus Belgium. The Red Devils have aging center backs and attack-minded wingbacks so there might be space to exploit in those situations.
“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.”
Understandable, if not necessary. The difference in quality with Canada’s Group F opponents will be unlike anything this side has faced as a national team. But even though they have approached every game without fear, there is a line that can’t be crossed.
“It can’t be about bravado when the pressure comes on,” Herdman explained. “It all just falls apart because that will strategy and skillset. When you start to look at it, we’ve got some real strength in our players in wide areas, world-class strength. We have some players that I genuinely believe in the way that we are going to try and play in that World Cup.”
All signs point to Herdman making few changes to the lineup that played Curacao on Thursday. There might be a couple of tweaks, like Richie Laryea checking in for Alistair Johnston or center back Steven Vitoria given a rest after playing 90 minutes on turf. But it will stay consistent.
If Canada is set on adding to its tactical arsenal for the World Cup, then it will need its best players available. Of course, depth is key as well with potential suspensions to weigh in the group stage. That’s why it was vital for Lucas Cavallini to score against Curacao.
“We have to be able to keep that intensity for 95 minutes of the game,” said Cavallini. “Obviously, the starters put in a hell of a shift. But obviously us finishers have to go in and finish the job.”
Even Samuel Piette and Junior Hoilett showing flashes in their cameos was a positive development. Herdman prefers having every player contribute in some way, even if it’s for five or 10 minutes. Starting a game strongly is important but so is closing it out.
“The competition makes the best out of all of us,” Cavallini continued. “I’m happy to be here and the depth we have is amazing.”
This is Canada’s last game until September when the team is expected to travel to Europe for a pair of friends with the dates, opponents and venues being finalized soon.