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“This is a dream come true for me, the players and the country. For the first time in 36 years we feel the World Cup vibe and we have to enjoy it,” said national coach John Herdman during the press moment on Tuesday. “It’s a wonderful feeling. However, we have not seen much of Qatar, except for the training center. From my hotel room I have a view of Lusail, the World Cup stadium where the final will be played, and that alone gives you the necessary drive.”
Not only the Canadian players, but the entire technical staff has no World Cup experience. The press moment had to start half an hour later because they had miscalculated on the Qatari traffic.
“You wouldn’t want that at your first World Cup in a long time. The match against Belgium will therefore be a good test for us. As we see it, we don’t have too much to lose and we will make it a cup final. Belgium has a lot of qualities, especially in the front. There is experience, the group has been playing together for a long time. We also know that sometimes during the match they will take control, that they will adapt more quickly to match situations. However, we have nothing to fear. Our naivete can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Our attack will test their defenses and vice versa.”
Star player Alphonso Davies is, as expected, completely fit after a hamstring injury and is expected in the starting line-up on Wednesday. “He is indeed ready to play. There were some injury concerns in recent weeks, but the sky has cleared up in the meantime. Our players are all fit.”
“Knowing what we are capable of”
With 98 caps already, central midfielder Atiba Hutchinson has been the captain of the Canadian national eleven for many years, which qualified for a World Cup finals for the first time since 1986.
However, the opening match against the Red Devils, number two in the world and number three in the previous World Cup, does not inspire too much fear in the inexperienced selection of national coach John Herdman. “It has always been a dream to represent Canada at the highest level,” Michy Batshuayi’s former teammate at Besiktas admitted during the press conference on Tuesday. “We believe in our qualities and know what we are capable of. We have great confidence in ourselves, we know that we can achieve something here against major football countries. We try to win every match, no matter who the opponent is. We want to put Canada on the map and will show on Wednesday that we deserve to be here.”
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The now 39-year-old Hutchinson has been playing for Besiktas for more than nine years and is a club icon. He got the World Cup taste in 1994, when the World Cup was played in the United States. “I supported Brazil then and they also became world champions. When I saw how many emotions that aroused all over the world, I was sold. Since then I dream of the World Cup and now that dream is coming true. I hope that I, in turn, can inspire young people.”