Canadians Abroad Roundup: Canada avoids disaster with Davies’ injury

Canadians Abroad Roundup: Canada avoids disaster with Davies’ injury

Canadians held their collective breath when Alphonso Davies was favouring his hamstring in the 62nd minute of Bayern Munich’s 3-2 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

Davies appeared to sustain the injury while racing back to stop a Hertha counter-attack before he seemingly tweaked his right hamstring.

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Thankfully, it doesn’t impact Davies’ World Cup status. He’ll likely miss the Nov. 17 friendly against Japan but be available for Canada’s tournament opener six days later vs. Belgium.

This isn’t the first time Davies injured his hamstring. He was taken off after 40 minutes in a 5-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in October 2021 as a precaution. He was back on the pitch 10 days later.

It goes without saying that Davies missing any World Cup games would significantly hinder Canada’s chances. For the country’s sake, hopefully this injury follows the same trend as the previous knock.

Sure, the team barely skipped a beat without him in the final six World Cup qualifiers, but this is a far trickier task. The 2-0 loss to Uruguay in September highlighted Davies’ influence in matches of this magnitude. He logged six key passes and would’ve registered at least two assists if not for wasteful finishing from Cyle Larin and tremendous goalkeeping from Sergio Rochet.

There are equally important players in the team from Milan Borjan to Stephen Eustaquio, yet no other player will command the same level of attention as Davies.

Plus, the 22-year-old is thriving as one of Bayern’s main men these days. Before he exited Saturday’s game, Davies was at the heart of some of Bayern’s best chances.

Watch Davies (No. 19) drift into the left half-space and help set up a couple of shots, the latter of which resulted in a goal.



Of course, a player in Davies’ mould who loves to dribble and progress the ball in the final third, will commit turnovers, some of them unnecessarily like these two sequences below.



This is a critique of Davies when he plays for Canada. He’s often accused of shouldering the workload, thus holding onto the ball when a passing option is available and conceding possession. This occurred a couple of times vs. Hertha.



But we also witnessed Davies quickly playing the ball in those first two clips. It’s been a common theme for weeks now, one that could translate to the World Cup.

It certainly worked against Uruguay thanks to Davies’ quicker releases.




It doesn’t completely excuse Davies’ “hero ball” tendencies or the lazily executed passes but dynamic attackers are bound to turn over the ball in the final third. It comes with the territory. The key is ensuring that Canada’s midfield transitions are far more disciplined than the Uruguay defeat to mitigate the risk.

Canada tends to learn from past mistakes so it shouldn’t be as open for its opponents. That means Herdman can let Davies cook.

MORE UPDATES AND ANALYSIS

• It’s been three straight games since Jonathan David has scored for Lille, but he was getting on the end of quality chances to no avail, yet again.



To top it off, David registered three key passes and nine touches in the box. A striker of his calibre won’t go much longer without scoring based on this level of underlying production. The 22-year-old is now averaging an eye-popping 0.56 non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes this season.

It had been nearly two months since Ike Ugbo started for Troyes. That drought was snapped after Ugbo received an hour of game time in a 1-1 draw with Auxerre.

Ugbo started in his regular centre forward position and finished without any shots. That’s not necessarily his fault, though. He had 10 touches, the majority of which were at least 30 yards away from the box.


Ugbo (No. 9 below) was essentially a hold-up striker and to his credit, he carried out the task well.

But that’s not Ugbo’s style. He’s best suited in the box, executing runs to latch onto crosses, cutbacks or through balls. There were a couple of promising runs in this game from Ugbo, he just never received the ball.



• In Belgium, Tajon Buchanan received the full 90 minutes in Club Brugge’s 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen to close out the Champions League group stage. They will face Benfica in the round of 16 beginning in February. Buchanan also finished the 90 in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Gent.

Buchanan receiving regular minutes ahead of the World Cup is great for Canada. The fact he’s comfortable drifting inside in marquee games is encouraging, too.

But it hasn’t led to any noteworthy production recently. Part of the explanation is down to Buchanan reverting to a wingback role, meaning fewer shots and general activity in the box.

Another factor is the increased amount of crosses in the last two games. Normally he’s quite accurate in this department but some of these sublime passes have narrowly evaded a teammate in the box.




Surely this will regress to the mean when Buchanan completed between 25 to 34 per cent of his crosses in previous seasons.

• Larin earned about 15 minutes in the Champions League match but was an unused substitute for the loss to Gent. It’s not much, but at least he’s playing ahead of the World Cup.

Humour me by ignoring Eustaquio’s goal-scoring spree in the Champions League and his assist against former club Pacos de Ferreira on Saturday. By now, it’s apparent that Eustaquio is comfortable chipping in offensively.

Keeping the World Cup in mind, defensive transitions in midfield are going to be imperative, especially for Eustaquio. The 25-year-old tends to cover the left flank for Porto off the ball, a role he could carry out against Kevin De Bruyne and Luka Modric.

As seen below, Eustaquio (No. 46) tucks inside on the left to offer protection off the ball but he’s diligent and presses efficiently. That’s exactly what Canada needs from its midfielders in Qatar.



• Monday’s scoreless draw between Chaves and Santa Clara highlighted Steven Vitoria’s major strengths and weaknesses.

When the game is in front of Vitoria and he isn’t isolated in one-on-one duels, he’s a confident defender.




However, the lack of composure under pressure and hesitancy on the ball in those situations can land his team in a spot of bother.



Provided there’s defensive discipline from Canada and the likes of Atiba Hutchinson or Eustaquio are tasked with building from the back, then Vitoria should be fine at the World Cup.

• I reckon Junior Hoilett is starting the Belgium match, and rightfully so. Hoilett’s been excellent in big matches against Mexico and the U.S., plus he’ll be a calming veteran presence on the pitch.

It also helps that Hoilett is a master at progressing the ball. In 90-plus minutes against Preston on Friday, the 32-year-old was seamlessly maneuvering through some tricky spots. That’ll be required vs. Belgium.

• It’s been an inconsistent few weeks for Theo Corbeanu. He’s been in and out of the Blackpool lineup, mostly earning 15-minute cameos off the bench, including Saturday’s loss to Luton Town.

C.J. Hamilton’s performances left Corbeanu further down the pecking order but coach Michael Appleton has been pleased with the 20-year-old’s recent contributions.

“I was pleased with that because it was important for Theo to do that,” Appleton said via Lancashire Live. “I enjoyed watching him when he came on [vs. Luton Town] and the impact he had. It wasn’t quite the same at West Brom and I wanted more from him and he knows that.

“They’re the type of impacts that you want when you bring players off the bench and we’ve had that in previous games with different players. When they do that and people can see that, they do themselves the world of good.”

Theo Corbeanu’s attacking stats, via Opta.

Corbeanu’s goal-scoring exploits in October were impressive but his chance creation is lacking for a player who is among the Championship’s top dribblers. His average carry distance and average progress are elite compared to other players in the division, yet the end product isn’t there.

Championship carry leaders, via Opta.

These two sequences show that Corbeanu is at least working on this area of his game. Faster releases in those transitional phases will go a long way towards regaining consistent starts.



• For the first time this season, Hutchinson was in Besiktas’ matchday squad. He was an unused substitute against Galatasaray on Saturday but he is slated to appear in Wednesday’s cup match vs. third-tier Serik Belediyespor. That’s a massive development ahead of the World Cup because the 39-year-old will be a key player.

• There are several breakout candidates for Canada at the World Cup, although few might benefit from the grand stage as much as Sam Adekugbe. The 27-year-old is the epitome of a two-way full-back and that was on full display for Hatayspor vs. Istanbul Basaksehir on Monday.

Just watch these dribbles (from No. 23 in white) and picture the overlaps with Davies.



The most striking aspect of Adekugbe’s arsenal is his defensive prowess. He’s so patient and efficient in every situation. It’s not easy to stay focused in one-on-one duels like these ones below.




Man-marking De Bruyne is easier said than done, but Adekugbe is the perfect candidate to carry out that role vs. Belgium.

• Liam Millar was a second-half substitute in Basel’s Europa Conference League and Swiss Super League matches last week. But he was a live wire during his 36-minute appearance vs. Sion on Sunday. These two passes deserved a goal at the end of them.



Being an impact substitute for Basel could come in handy during the World Cup if Canada is in need of an offensive spark off the bench. Just saying.

• There appears to be two different versions of Borjan. The Red Star Belgrade Borjan is aggressive off his line and the 4-1 loss to Monaco on Thursday highlighted his discomfort in a more advanced position.

The Canadian version is a pure shot-stopper. Borjan tends to stay on his line and produce world-class saves on the regular. That led to him stopping an absurd six goals above expected in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Provided he continues to be thrust in a similar role at the World Cup, there’s no reason to panic about Borjan’s club form.

• If David Wotherspoon’s spot on the final World Cup squad wasn’t already guaranteed, Sunday’s display against Rangers secured it.

The St. Johnstone midfielder earned his first start since tearing his ACL last November and was sublime. Wotherspoon is a Hoilett clone in that they’re both technically proficient, love to play quick, one-touch football and can pull apart opposing defences with their dribbling or passing.

Just watch this passing clinic from St. Johnstone’s No. 10 — against one of Scotland’s biggest clubs — and say Wotherspoon shouldn’t be on the plane. I dare you.

• After impressing off the bench last week, Victor Loturi was handed a start for Ross County as they beat St. Mirren 3-2 on Saturday. Loturi, who joined County in the summer from Cavalry FC, hadn’t had any games to display his on-the-ball qualities but these past two matches have been amazing opportunities.

The composure and fluidity are ridiculous. Mark down Loturi as a candidate for a call-up in March for Nations League.

• There are a couple of Canadian players who’ve been ruled out of the World Cup. The first is Scott Kennedy, who suffered a shoulder injury in Jahn Regensburg’s loss to Hansa Rostock on Oct. 29 and won’t return until the new year.

• Kennedy’s injury essentially guarantees a place for Derek Cornelius. He’s a like-for-like replacement at left centre-back but is a more composed passer under pressure.



• Maxime Crepeau is the second injury absentee for Canada. The LAFC goalkeeper broke his leg when he stopped Cory Burke on a breakaway in extra time of the MLS Cup final against the Philadelphia Union.

Backup John McCarthy stood on his head in the penalty shootout in relief to help LAFC lift its first MLS Cup, with Crepeau joining the celebrations via FaceTime.

Crepeau’s injury opens the door for Dayne St. Clair to start against Bahrain this Friday and to become the No. 2 in Qatar. CF Montreal’s James Pantemis is surely on the plane as the third-choice goalkeeper.

• Another game, another brace for Charles-Andreas Brym, who’s up to four goals on the season with FC Eindhoven in the Eerste Divisie. Brym is averaging 0.55 xG per 90 minutes in his last three games since he opened his account for the campaign. It probably won’t be enough to crack the World Cup squad, but there’s still the Nations League and Gold Cup to target in 2023.

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