Canada have had an up-and-down history in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ finals. They began their attempts at reaching world football’s biggest stage in the preliminary rounds of Sweden 1958. After putting a first toe in the water, the Canucks suffered from growing pains before finally achieving a degree of stability in the early 1980s. English coach Tony Waiters brought with him a focus on defence and organisation and the Canadians were unlucky not to qualify for Spain 1982, a draw on the last day of qualifying against Cuba sending El Salvador through to the finals instead. They didn’t have to rue their defeat for long, however, and their greatest moment came in 1985 when a pair of wins over Honduras saw the side through to a first-ever FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico in 1986.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Canada arrived on Mexican soil in ’86 with a reputation for strong defence, but a rather anemic ability in front of goal. In their first game against defending European champions France, the North Americans were able to hold Michel Platini and co until the 79th minute, when a fatal error by goalkeeper Paul Dolan allowed Jean-Pierre Papin to steal in and score the winner in a tense 1-0 loss. They were unable to get in among the goals in their following games and exited their only finals to date with a pair of losses to Hungary and the USSR and without scoring a single goal.
The current crop
Canada have been inconsistent in their form of late, but have a strong squad to draw on in their bid to reach Brazil 2014. Failing to reach the final round of CONCACAF qualifying in their last three qualifying cycles, they have pace, youth and experience in abundance this time around and are hoping for a return to the glory days of 1986. Coach Stephen Hart looks to have instilled an amount of discipline and organisation in the squad and hopes are high in the camp despite a dramatic and harsh first-round exit from the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Canadian team is led by Atiba Hutchinson of PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivisie. A versatile player, the jet-heeled Hutchinson is most effective coming up through midfield and adding himself to the attack. The defensive and leadership roles are handled by long-time Germany-based captain Paul Stalteri and Burnley’s David Edgar. In attack, Dwayne De Rosario of New York Red Bulls will add the creativity while Ali Gerba plays the poacher’s role.
Coach: Stephen Hart
Best performance at a FIFA World Cup: FIFA World Cup Mexico 1986 (First Round), FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003 (quarter-finals)
Former stars: Bob Lenarduzzi, Branko Segota, Dale Mitchell