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Davies ready to embrace leadership role on revamped Canada roster

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FRISCO, Texas –– As Canada’s men’s national team prepares for its critical Copa América playoff against Trinidad and Tobago Saturday afternoon, Alphonso Davies says he told interim head coach Mauro Biello to consider him as a choice for team captain.

“I told him to consider me as one of the leaders, one of the guys that could wear the armband,” the 23-year-old Bayern Munich left-back  told TSN Thursday.

“Whoever [Biello] picks, whoever he sees fit to lead this team, I’m happy with, and I’m sure everyone is as well. But I just wanted to let him know that I’m in the running and that I want to be in the running for the armband."

Multiple sources told TSN earlier this week that Biello will hand the captain’s armband for Saturday’s match to midfielder Stephen Eustáquio.

But Davies insists the coach’s decision won’t affect his desire to take on a more influential leadership role on a Canadian squad that has seemingly moved on from established veterans like goalkeeper Milan Borjan, midfielder Junior Hoilett, and defender Steven Vitoria.

“Football is a team sport. Armband or not, I’m still going to play my game, still try to motivate the team, motivate myself to play," Davies said. "And overall, however it goes, whether it’s Copa, whether it’s [20]26 [World Cup], whomever gets the armband, I respect them. I’ll look at them and I’ll respect everyone, and I'll continue to play.”

Canada will certainly need Davies to help lead the way. Following Canada’s November loss to Jamaica in Toronto, Biello decided to blend Canada’s established, European league-winning stars – like Davies, Tajon Buchanan, Jonathan David, Alistair Johnston, and Cyle Larin – with eager, younger players, like Theo Bair, Moïse Bombito, and Jacen Russell-Rowe.

“The loss against Jamaica was a brutal one, it took a toll on everybody,” Davies said of the defeat that kept Canada from earlier Copa América qualification. “As you can see, the coach went for a younger squad this time around. Overall, I think these guys are hungry, they’re fighting for a spot. They know the spot is not secured and they're fighting for every single minute they can get to stay with the national team.

"Playing with your national team is one of the biggest achievements you can do as a footballer, and I feel like this team is really going to push the boundaries that previous Canadian team couldn’t [achieve]."

Copa América qualification would be a new frontier for this team. Canada was invited to play in the 2001 edition as Gold Cup winners, but was unable to participate because of security concerns and then scheduling issues.

Qualification for the world’s oldest continental tournament this time means Canada would open the tournament on June 20 against Lionel Messi and World Cup-champion Argentina.

Davies smiled when asked how motivating it is to potentially play Messi again.

Davies has enjoyed previous club success against Messi: Davies and Bayern beat Messi and Barcelona 8-2 in a neutral site Champions League quarter-final in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then Davies and Bayern beat Messi again when Bayern defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16 in 2023.

“If we qualify we’re playing against the World Cup champions. It’s a big motivation for everybody,” Davies said.  “You want to go out there, you want to give it your all, and knowing that this team won the World Cup you want to play your best football to see how you match up with them.

“The [opening game in Atlanta on June 20] is 80,000 sold out and everybody is going to be on [Argentina’s] side. I think that’s a good challenge, a good motivation, and it’s also a good experience playing against qualify players like this and quality teams like this.”