Canada coach intent on naming strongest squad for Bermuda
John Herdman is adamant he will call upon Canada’s best players for the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Bermuda in two weeks’ time.
The nations are set to meet at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on March 25 in the opening encounter in group B, which also includes Surinam and Cayman Islands.
Ahead of the match, there is still a level of uncertainty regarding whether Canada will be able to include some of their key personnel from overseas owing to recent regulations from the Bureau of the Fifa Council.
As of the beginning of February, the Bureau decided to extend the amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players governing the release of players for national team duty until the end of April.
As part of the amendment, the rules relating to release of players to association teams apply as normal except where there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days upon arrival in either the location of the club or where a representative team match is scheduled to take place.
With quarantine periods still being enforced across much of Europe, it could mean Canada may not be able to call upon the likes of talisman Alphonso Davies, of Bayern Munich, as well as other senior personnel including Jonathan David (Lille), Ricardo Ferreira (Farense), Scott Arfield (Rangers), Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City) and Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas).
However, Herdman is unwavering in his determination to name his strongest squad, as he remains well aware of the potential threat that Kyle Lightbourne’s side pose.
“It is a tricky time with Covid-19, there is no doubt about that, but we have to recognise this is a World Cup qualifier and Canada will call up its best players,” the 45-year-old English coach told OneSoccer, the video-streaming service.
“We will be doing everything we can to ensure that our top players are available to help put us one step closer to reaching our target.
“We are working furiously behind the scenes to ensure that we can bring our players into the United States and have them available ready to perform in what will be a tough match against Bermuda.
“We have to get it into our minds that this isn't a game where we can pull together some sort of reserve squad to play.
“Bermuda were able to beat Panama in the Nations League and went to Mexico, took the lead and only lost the game in the last minute.
“This is a good team within the region and we won’t be taking any chances. We have to ensure that we do our best to bring our best players in.”
As well as highlighting the threat Bermuda pose, Herdman was also quick to reflect on the less-than-ideal opportunity for preparation and the heightened, unpredictable nature of the encounter because of the disruptive nature of the pandemic.
“For some by the time the Bermuda match kicks off, it would be their first competitive match since November,” he added. “There is a lot of changes with the whole reality of the squad dynamics and understanding the players’ match readiness.
“We’re not the only ones dealing with this, but you have to be aware that Bermuda have been training two or three times a week since December. Because of that, you start to see that the perceived gap between the sides starts to close when you consider the reality of Covid.
“That’s why it so important to have those European-based players ready because it will be difficult for some other players who have been out of action for a long time.
“We will only really have two days to try and prepare the team, and when you think as a coach the reality is it will be a one-day training session ahead of the match.
“I have to trust that my players will want it more than the Bermuda players and when they pull on that red shirt, we have to rely on their individual quality to bring the performance we need.
“Do these players really want to get Canada into a World Cup and change this country for ever?”