Canada are back at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 36 years, and on Friday learned who they'll face at Qatar 2022 after being drawn into Group F with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.
When they’ll play
This is only Canada's second World Cup appearance in total. They finished last in Group C in 1986, with a 1-0 loss to France and 2-0 defeats to Hungary and the Soviet Union in Mexico '86.
Who they drew
The clear favorite in the group, Belgium may nonetheless be a favorable draw from Pot 1, with some believing a golden generation of Red Devils football is in its autumn.
- FIFA World Ranking: 2
- How they got here: UEFA Group E winner
- Key players: Romelu Lukaku (F, Chelsea); Kevin De Bruyne (M, Manchester City); Thibaut Courtois (GK, Real Madrid); Eden Hazard (M, Real Madrid)
- Coach: Roberto Martínez
- World Cup history: Alongside the Netherlands, Belgium are among the most prolific footballing nations to never win a World Cup. And this might be their last chance, with most of the biggest names of their own generation either approaching or on the other side of 30 years old. Their best-ever finish came in 2018, when they placed third after losing to eventual champions France in the semifinals.
The 2018 World Cup darlings after their unexpected run to the final, Croatia may again fancy their chances at a deep run given their draw from Pot 2.
- FIFA World Ranking: 16
- How they got here: UEFA Group H winner
- Key players: Luka Modric (M, Real Madrid); Ivan Perisic (M, Inter Milan); Andrej Kramaric (M, TSG Hoffenheim); Mario Pasalic (M, Atalanta)
- Coach: Zlatko Dalić
- World Cup history: It's hard to forget their run to the 2018 final, but Croatia have actually played tournament darlings twice after reaching the semifinals in 1998. That was their first qualification cycle as a FIFA member after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. They've qualified for four of five World Cups since, but 2018 was only their second foray into the knockout phase.
The African qualifiers from Pot 3 are in back-to-back World Cups for the first time since 1994 and 1998.
- FIFA World Ranking: 24
- How they got here: CAF Group I winner. Won playoff over DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate.
- Key players: Archaf Hakimi (D, Paris Saint-Germain); Azzedine Ounahi (M, Angers); Sofyan Amrabat (M, Fiorentina); Selim Amallah (M, Standard Liege)
- Coach: Vahid Halilhodžić
- World Cup history: Morocco first arrived at the World Cup in Mexico in 1970, but have been inconsistent qualifiers out of Africa and have only advanced past the group stage once in six appearances, in 1986. Ironically, three of those appearance have come in the Americas, as they were also a part of Mexico '86 and USA '94.
CanMNT's path to Qatar 2022
After winning all six of their preliminary qualifiers to reach Concacaf's eight-team final qualifying round-robin, Canada finished atop "The Octagonal," ahead of Mexico on goal difference.
In the process, they took 19 of 21 points at home, winning their home games to take four of six points each from the United States and Mexico.
Can Canada emerge from tough Group F at Qatar 2022 World Cup?
World Cup schedule
Rather than being held in the summer, the quadrennial event is being held during November and December. Qatar 2022 will be contested at eight stadiums across five cities.
The schedule breakdown is below:
- Group stage: Nov. 21 to Dec. 2
- Round of 16: Dec. 3-6
- Quarterfinals: Dec. 9-10
- Semifinals: Dec. 13-14
- Third place: Dec. 17
- Final: Dec. 18