Early goals from Ciel Lauren and Jonathan David helped Canada cruise to an easy 2-0 win over hosts Qatar in the Men’s World Cup Friendly on Friday.
Canada controlled large parts of the game and built a 2-0 lead after just 13 minutes at a largely empty Generali Arena, home to Austria’s Vienna. Qatar, which is five places below Canada at No. 48 in the world rankings, failed to make an impact on the day.
The Canadians, who faced Qatar for the first time, will face No. 13 Uruguay on Tuesday in Bratislava, Slovakia.
There was a moment of concern in the second half with Alphonso Davies needing treatment after a 57th-minute collision with Ismail Mohammed. The Bayern Munich star was able to leave, albeit gently, as he made way for a substitute.
“I think he’s OK. He was sitting on the bench smiling. So I think he’s good,” Canada coach John Herdman said after the game.
Canada wasted little time with Lauren’s goal in the fourth minute. The Club Brugge striker rose to head home Sam Adekogbe’s cross, awarded just outside Qatar’s penalty box, for his Canadian men’s record 25th goal in 53 games.
David doubled the lead in the 13th minute by heading in a Miller cross from Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheib, but only to a pair of Canadians. Davies went down, lost his footing, trying to reach the ball, but David was there to head home for his 22nd goal in 33 games in Canadian colours.
David, who is signed to Adidas, covered the Nike logo on Canada’s shirt with his right hand as he celebrated the goal. There has been recent talk on social media about Canada, unlike other teams, not unveiling a new jersey for the World Cup.
Canada came close to a third goal in the 88th minute off a free kick but Ike Ogbo’s header was saved by the Qatar keeper and Kamal Miller’s effort from the rebound hit the crossbar.
David (Junior) Hallett, earning his 48th cap, captained Canada in the absence of the injured Atiba Hutchinson.
Friday’s game was Canada’s men’s first against an Asian opponent since November 2016 when they defeated South Korea 2-0. Herdman was expected to be a well-rehearsed opponent with Qatari players largely drawn from domestic teams, with Al-Saad and Al-Duhail leading the way.
The World Cup host nation will play in World Cup Group A with No. 8 Netherlands, No. 18 Senegal (African Cup of Nations Champions) and No. 44 Ecuador.
The Canadians, who open the World Cup on Nov. 23 in Group F against No. 2 Belgium, are using the flanks to attack Qatar’s defensive defense.
After going down from the start, Qatar had a chance at their end after conceding to Canada in the 10th minute. But Mohamed Wad’s shot hit Milan Borjan directly.
Abdulaziz Hatem came close in the 36th minute when his shot from the edge of the penalty box hit the edge of the post, prompting Burjan to shout at his defenders.
Canada had 62 percent of the possession in the first half. Both sides made changes at the break with Canada sending on Richie Lauria to replace Lauren. Charles-Andreas Bryan, Ismail Kun and Ogbo followed from the Canadian bench in a triple change on the hour mark.
Qatar showed more intent in the second half but could not break down Canada’s defence, offering little in attack.
Lauria went close in the 63rd minute but his shot from close range was blocked, as Ogbo’s shot went off the rebound. Liam Miller returned to the national team in the 67th minute after being ruled out with a broken arm.
Mark Anthony Kaye comes in at 74th as Herdman, using his bench liberally, given the heavy club loads some of his players have experienced.
For the Canadians, the European camp is the first together since the ill-fated meeting in Vancouver in June when the players refused to play in a friendly against Panama due to a contract dispute. The team made the break to play Curacao and Honduras in the CONCACAF Nations League on June 9 and 13. But contract talks continue.
Canada’s final World Cup practice game is Nov. 17 against No. 24 Japan in Dubai.
Herdman has further injury concerns with Club Brugge winger Tajon Buchanan likely to only make the bench for the Uruguay game if fit. Toronto FC defender Donnell Henry, who went down with a hamstring problem on the eve of camp, is with the team but is not expected to see action. TFC teammate Jonathan Osorio stayed home to deal with a “nervous breakdown” caused by a knee to the head in an MLS game in mid-July.
Despite the injuries, Herdman fielded a strong line-up with Miller, Steven Vitoria and Alastair Johnston against Borjan with Adekogbe and Howlett at wing-back and Samuel Payet and Stefan Eustaquio in midfield with Davies, David and Lorraine. led the attack.
Payet was influential in midfield, often combining with Eustaquio to thwart Qatar’s attacks.
Canada’s starting 11 went into the match with 428 combined caps, led by Borjan (65) and Payette (62).
The inexperienced Joel Waterman (CF Montreal) and Luca Collosho (Espanyol) started on the bench. The 18-year-old Kolshaw has yet to pledge his international allegiance to Canada. Born to a Nigerian father and Italian-Canadian mother (born in Montreal), he has options.
Qatar is coached by 46-year-old Spaniard Felix Sanchez, who was Barcelona’s youth coach before moving to Qatar in 2006 to join the Aspire Sports Academy. He took over the senior team in 2017 and moved to coaching Qatar’s youth teams.
Qatar, never ranked higher than No. 42, failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, finishing 2-7-1 in the six-team third-round qualifying group.
But Sanchez led Qatar to victory in the 2019 Asian Cup, winning seven straight games while outscoring the opposition 19-1. Qatar defeated Iraq, South Korea and the host United Arab Emirates in the knockout stage and defeated Japan 3-1 in the final.