Recap: Canada beat Qatar 2-0 in friendly match

Canada’s National Men’s Team has never faced Qatar before today. Interestingly enough, in 2015 an U-15 match was played, with Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David scoring for Canada in a 2-0 victory. Today was almost a carbon copy of that youth game with the same result and David scoring Canada’s second goal.

Today’s match was Canada’s first test against non-CONCACAF competition since January 2020. The Reds faced the next World Cup hosts, where all Qatar players line up in the domestic Qatar Stars League, and with around 80% of the squad belonging to just two clubs; Al-Duhail Doha and Al Sadd SC. Although neither are playing at a high level, Qatari players make up for this with the familiarity of playing both with each other (domestically) and against each other (domestically).

Qatar’s preparations began in earnest in early June with the decision by the Qatar Football Association (QFA) to exempt national team players from participating in the Qatar Stars League for the rest of the summer.

Consequently, Brown, as Qatar is known, has played a prodigious amount of football this summer. Since July 9, they have played 11 friendlies, but eight against club sides and one Croatia U-23 side. The remaining games were against national teams that could generously be described as a B team. All of these games were also played in Austria. The CanMNT has been inactive since the June window.

Canada lined up at the Generali Stadium in Vienna, Austria, in a familiar 3-4-3 formation against a Qatari side that pulled off their usual 5-3-2. Junior Hoilett wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Atiba Hutchinson, and somewhat surprisingly often on alternate captain Milan Borjan. Samuel Piette started in midfield, forming a double pivot with the reliable Stephen Eustáquio.

Despite the layoff, Canada came out strong to start the game. In the fourth minute, Cyle Larin headed a cross from Samuel Adekugbe to score the first goal of the match, his 25e for country. It was a perfect finish after a 12-pass streak throughout the offensive half by Canada.

Continuing their dominating game, Canada put Qatar under pressure again in the seventh minute. Larin was dispatched by an Alistair Johnston deep from a difficult angle, only for Larin’s undershot chip attempt to meet the outstretched hands of Qatari keeper Saad El-Sheeb.

In the 10th minute, Qatar made one of their rare deep inroads into Canadian territory after sloppy play from Canada’s midfield and defence. However, Borjan was more than a match for the shot that pricked his palms and away from danger.

Canada were back on their feet immediately afterwards and again cornered Qatar in their side of the field. Capping off another soft passing streak, Jonathan David buried a ball that came close to the penalty spot for Canada’s second of the game. The initial cross was parried into the feet of Alphonso Davies, who was fouled on play, but luckily the ball rolled over onto the David clinic. The goal was the 22-year-old’s 22nd in 33 caps for his country. However, it was his celebration that got more people talking as David appeared to deliberately place his hand on the Nike swoosh in a perceived protest that Canada were the only World Cup-related team not to get new kit for the tournament.

It was a dream start for Canada who looked equal parts dominant and comfortable in the first half. The half featured some Herdman experiences, such as Hoilett lining up as a wing-back, Davies often coming inside to play as a former No.10 behind David and Larin, as well as the audition de Piette as Eustáquio’s midfield partner. Based on this half, all three experiments were successful.

The second half started with just one substitution for Canada, with Richie Laryea replacing Larin and pushing Hoilett further up the pitch for a while. The action was largely silent for the start of the half until the 58th minute when Davies went down after a challenge. As he finally got up and left on his own (to the sound of a collective sigh of relief from the Canadian fans), the break in the room spelled the end of the evening for Davies, as well as David. and Piette, who were replaced respectively by Charles-Andreas Brym, Iké Ugbo and Ismaël Koné.

Shortly after arriving on the pitch, Adekugbe sent a sumptuous pass from close range, but Laryea and Ugbo were denied on play that should have produced a third Canada goal. This was closely followed in the 66th minute by another 1-2 stretch between Brym and Koné which lacked the required final finish.

Canada then made their final two substitutions with Liam Millar in place of Adekugbe and shortly after with Mark-Anthony Kaye replacing Eustáquio. As is common in friendlies with multiple second-half substitutions, the quality of play deteriorated, with neither side finding the high pace threatening.

Canada’s Stephen Eustaquio and Qatar’s Almoez Ali battle for the ball during the friendly soccer match between Qatar and Canada in Vienna on September 23, 2022.
Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

It’s until the end of halftime. In the 88th minute, Kamal Miller hit the crossbar from inside the Qatari keeper’s box after hanging onto a rebound that parried him after Ugbo’s redirected header from a free kick was saved .

Then in injury time, Hoilett fired a powerful shot just wide of El-Sheeb’s net, soon followed by a final chance from Millar, whose shot found the Qatari keeper’s arms to end the game.

The Canadian defense kept the dangerous Qatari Akram Afif secret throughout the evening’s affair. At the final whistle, Canada led Qatar in possession 61-39%, and Canada held the advantage in shots and shots on target 13 (8) to Qatar’s 8 (2), with most of Qatar’s shots being fired from a distance.

Overall, it was a good team performance for Canada considering it was their first game in 15 weeks. The fast start and led by The Reds largely took Qatar out of the game. With a bit of luck or just a more clinical finish, the scoreline could have gotten out of control.

Next up for Qatar is a game against Chile in Vienna, Austria on September 27, 2022.

As for Canada, their next matchup will be with Uruguay in Bratislava, Slovakia also on September 27.

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