How Canada can qualify for World Cup in Qatar: Explaining scenarios for CanMNT in 2022

Canada has qualified for just one FIFA men’s World Cup in the nation’s history, but that could change ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Les Rouges are leading the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with eight matches gone, and there is a real possibility that Canada could qualify for its first World Cup since 1986. Still, there’s plenty of work to be done to clinch one of three direct berths with a group of four teams in contention.

The United States sit just a point back in second place, with a head-to-head matchup between the two sides looming at the end of the month. Mexico and Panama are also within striking distance just two points behind, meaning things could change quickly, especially with three matches in the span of seven days at the end of January.

MORE: How long is Alphonso Davies out for Canada?

The coming Matchday 9 will be absolutely critical. Since all top four teams are within two points of each other, and all four are matched up against the bottom-four teams, it’s entirely possible that one bad result could change the qualifying picture.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Below are the current standings in the race to qualify for the 2022 World Cup from the CONCACAF region. 

The top three teams earn automatic qualification to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the team finishing in fourth will play an intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceana region. The bottom four teams are eliminated.

Canada 16 8 4 0 4 13 5 +8
United States 15 8 4 1 3 12 5 +7
Mexico 14 8 4 2 2 11 7 +4
Panama 14 8 4 2 2 11 9 +2
Costa Rica 9 8 2 3 3 6 7 -1
Jamaica 7 8 1 3 4 6 10 -4
El Salvador 6 8 1 4 3 4 10 -6
Honduras 3 8 0 5 3 5 15 -10

Canada World Cup qualifying schedule & results

Below is the full list of Canada’s past results and upcoming matches in the quest for 2022 World Cup qualification. 

Date Match Time (ET) TV / Stream
Sept. 2, 2021 Canada 1, Honduras 1   Highlights
Sept. 5, 2021 United States 1, Canada 1   Highlights
Sept. 8, 2021 Canada 3, El Salvador 0   Highlights
Oct. 7, 2021 Mexico 1, Canada 1   Highlights
Oct. 10, 2021 Jamaica 0, Canada 0   Highlights
Oct. 13, 2021 Canada 4, Panama 1   Highlights
Nov. 12, 2021 Canada 1, Costa Rica 0   Highlights
Nov. 16, 2021 Canada 2, Mexico 1   Highlights
Jan. 27, 2022 Honduras vs. Canada 8:05 p.m. ET  
Jan. 30, 2022 Canada vs. United States 3:05 p.m. ET  
Feb. 2, 2022 El Salvador vs. Canada 9 p.m. ET  
Mar. 24, 2022 Costa Rica vs. Canada TBD  
Mar. 27, 2022 Canada vs. Jamaica TBD  
Mar. 30, 2022 Panama vs. Canada TBD  

How many points to qualify for the World Cup?

If we’re using past regional World Cup qualifying cycles for historical comparisons, we need to use the points per game metric (PPG), since there were only 10 matches played in the CONCACAF final round in past cycles (compared to the 14 on the calendar in the lead-up to Qatar 2022).

While the number of matches was different, the top three spots still qualified directly to each World Cup listed below (points per game of each qualifying team indicated in bold). And since the 2006 World Cup, the fourth-place team advance to a playoff against a nation from another region.

Qualifying 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
1998 1.8 1.7 1.4 1.2 1.0 0.6
2002 2.3 1.7 1.7 1.4 0.8 0.5
2006 2.2 2.2 1.6 1.3 1.1 0.2
2010 2.0 1.9 1.6 1.6 0.8 0.6
2014 2.2 1.8 1.5 1.1 0.8 0.5
2018 2.1 1.6 1.3 1.3 1.2 0.6
2022* 2.0 1.9 1.8 1.8 1.1 0.9 0.8 0.4

Canada qualifying results projection

So what needs to realistically happen for Canada to be comfortably in that 1.8-1.9 points-per-game range it needs to qualify without breaking a sweat? Or, if fans wish to dream big, how can they push towards the 2.0 PPG barrier to claim the top spot?

MORE: Which teams have qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

We took a stab at projecting results for the final six matches, taking a less favorable set of outcomes to find the minimum required to comfortably qualify. Canada is currently undefeated in first place, but it only has two home games remaining in its final six (vs. USA and Jamaica) with four road trips to Central America coming up.

The less favorable set of outcomes includes a loss and three draws in those final six games. Considering a possible home loss to the United States, plus road draws at Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras, the resulting total of 25 points (and an approximate 1.8 points-per-game mark) should be enough to qualify.

Those results, however, allow little room for error, as a slip in any of the matches would complicate things. For example, a draw against Jamaica or El Salvador instead of a win would leave Canada in a very vulnerable position (1.6 PPG), especially if the other teams around them were to continue racking up wins. Clearly, a result (perhaps a win?) against the United States at home would go a long way towards allaying those fears.

Canada’s strong start has given it some wiggle room, and CanMNT supporters will be hoping the team can avoid a scenario in which it would need a result in the final match in Panama to clinch a spot in Qatar.

Match Date Opponent / Result PPG
9 Thursday Jan. 27, 2022 Honduras 0, Canada 0 (Draw) 1.9
10 Sunday Jan. 30, 2022 Canada 0, United States 1 (Loss) 1.7
11 Wednesday Feb. 2, 2022 El Salvador 0, Canada 2 (Win) 1.8
12 Thursday March 24, 2022 Costa Rica 1, Canada 1 (Draw) 1.8
13 Sunday March 27, 2022 Canada 1, Jamaica 0 (Win) 1.8
14 Wednesday March 30, 2022 Panama 2, Canada 2 (Draw) 1.8

How Canada can secure World Cup qualification

With six matches remaining in the qualification cycle and the top four teams within two points, there’s still lots of work left to be done and a razor-thin margin for error.

A clear top four teams have been established, with a relatively sizable gap between fourth and fifth. There are only three guaranteed spots for qualification; the country finishing in fourth will be left to play a single-elimination interncontinental playoff against Oceania’s representative, likely to be New Zealand.

Canada is unbeaten in eight matches, with four wins and four draws to the Maple Leafs’ name, and the ability to secure results on the road has been key. They picked up draws on the road against the United States, Mexico and Jamaica. Add those to a 4W-0L-1D home record, including a famous 2-1 home win over Mexico, and the points have come in bunches.

MORE: How the World Cup intercontinental playoffs work

The schedule sees four of its last six matches coming on the road, so Canada will need the road warrior mentality moving forward. Its two remaining home matches against the United States and Jamaica will be critical.

Canadian fans will be hoping the results from the upcoming three-match set that kicks off at the end of January — including that home match against the USA — will allow it to control its own destiny heading into the final international window. 

CONCACAF standings tiebreakers

There’s always a possibility that the CONCACAF standings are extra tight and that Canada is tied on points with one or more of the seven other nations in the qualifying standings. Tiebreakers would come into play.

Here are the standings tiebreakers for teams even on points:

  1. Goal difference in all group matches
  2. Most goals scored in all group matches
  3. Most points obtained from group matches between teams concerned
  4. Goal difference from group matches between teams concerned
  5. Most goals scored in group matches between teams concerned
  6. Goals scored away from home (if two teams are tied)
  7. Discipline points (based on yellow/red cards)
  8. Drawing of lots by FIFA

The Qatar World Cup will be played from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022.

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