Canada’s men’s national soccer team was set to face Trinidad and Tobago in pair of friendlies on March 27 and 31 in an attempt to boost their qualification chances for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those matches, as well as soccer around the globe, have been put on an indefinite hiatus.
Canadian men’s head coach John Herdman says that the most important thing right now is for people inside and outside of the soccer world to pay attention to their health.
"I think everyone’s priority at this stage is fighting the common cause, which is to keep themselves safe and encouraging our players to stay safe,” Herdman told TSN. “I think football around the world has embraced this challenge and from what I can see, the clubs and the game have made some great decisions to help humanity get healthy again.”
One of the obvious tolls the pause in play will take on the players is that they will lose their momentum and game shape. But Herdman believes that the effect that this will have on them mentally is going to be an even bigger factor.
"I think it’s going to be really tough. The programming that they’ve instilled from age 12-13, moving into Academy life, they’ve been used to structure,” said Herdman. “It is quite a robotic existence, treating the body like a piece of machinery. The players, even having a life devoid of pressure is a massive challenge for this group. They are usually thrust into moments of great judgment every weekend, and not having that judgment and the lows that come with that and then being able to adapt to a life where, what are you actually working towards or getting up for? That’s challenging."
The complications caused by this layoff and eventual return to play is something that Herdman says will be felt worldwide at both the club and national level. In his opinion, considering the unknowns, the best thing he and his staff can do is be prepared for all possibilities.
"You’ll have on one end of the spectrum, [Liverpool manager] Jurgen Klopp wondering how he’s going to pick up a Premier League trophy, to Canada Soccer wondering how this World Cup qualification is going to pan out,” said Herdman. “I think the reality for us is that we have time to think and be ready and I think that’s the critical word, whatever comes, we need to be ready for.
"The only thing we can really control at this stage is the potential of a 7-35 pathway, an extension of FIFA windows that allows us to have these additional games to accumulate FIFA ranking points, or to be ready for a new qualification pathway that CONCACAF has to put in place because of the adaptations they’ll need to make based on this new reality.”