Canada’s men are fully prepared for Tuesday’s crucial 2022 Qatar World Cup qualification playoff against Haiti, according to head coach John Herdman.
But he admits there’s an anxiousness in his squad, considering a positive result sends them through to the final round of World Cup qualifying and a negative one knocks them out completely.
“These boys are excited,” said Herdman during a pre-match media availability Monday. “I think they’re a little bit nervous as well because they know they’re on the cusp of something really important.
“But I feel in the training today there’s a focus and an intensity. So, yeah, we’re primed. And tomorrow, hopefully they’ll unleash the passion again.”
Canada to focus on the present
Canada holds a 1-0 lead over Haiti in the two-legged tie after the Canadians earned a one-goal victory in Port-au-Prince Saturday. The winner of the playoff goes on to the eight-team final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, also known as the Octagon, which will run from September 2021 to March 2022.
But Herdman doesn’t want his squad looking too far ahead or worrying about the intricacies of a two-legged series.
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“I’ve been clear to the group, we’ve just got to take the scoreboard out of it,” he said Monday. “Take the time clock out of it. Take the scoreboard out of it. And it’s now a game. It’s a game where if we let that control us, those expectations and those things that can come in and start diverting attention.
“We just want the players to be very clear. If they follow the process, if they win the contest on the night, and if they win their individual contests, then we’ve got enough quality to take this group to the next round. We just want them in the moment. Moment to moment, whistle to whistle, focusing on the small things that make big differences.”
Expecting a tough challenge from Haiti
But he knows Haiti will have something to say about who advances from the playoff as well.
“We know that this team (Haiti) have a response in them,” he said. “They have a real response. And if they smell blood, they get after it. And they become a bit of a juggernaut.
“So, for us, we’ve got to be super professional. We’ve got to recognize that they will have a response. We’ve got to match that intensity.
“And then let our quality come through.”