Qatar and Canada will meet for the first time on Friday at Generali Arena in Austria in a pre-tournament friendly ahead of the World Cup in November.
The Maroon come into this encounter unbeaten in seven successive matches in all competitions, while the Canucks have dropped two of their previous three fixtures.
After surprising everyone by finishing first in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, John Herdman has called these upcoming friendlies a measuring stick for his side, who will be facing teams outside of their region for the first time in over four years.
Like their opponents on Friday, this Canadian program has come a long way since the man born in Consett, County Durham, took charge in 2018.
Canada are currently 43rd according to the latest FIFA World rankings, losing only two of their 20 qualification fixtures en route to the finals, scoring 54 goals while conceding only eight.
When Les Rouges hit the field for their first World Cup match in over 36 years, they will unquestionably be the underdogs, having to face the third and second place finishers from the 2018 finals (Belgium and Croatia), along with the second-highest ranked team from Africa in Morocco.
The Canadians’ meteoric rise in men’s football over the past couple of years has not gone unnoticed by the big clubs around Europe, as numerous players chosen by Herdman for this upcoming window apply their trade with some of those prominent teams, many of whom are playing significant roles domestically.
Though not necessarily playing against competition as tough as they are likely to face at the World Cup, this is a team who are comfortable allowing their opponents to have the ball for long stretches, while the Canucks were deadly on the counter during the qualification process.
As they prepare to welcome the world later this year, Felix Sanchez and his men have been on a mission to prove that they deserve the right to be among the top 32 footballing nations worldwide.
While Qatar did not have to earn their place through qualification, it is hard to argue that this team do not merit a spot in the finals.
They captured the previous Asian Cup in 2019, finished third at the 2021 Arab Cup and made it to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year.
These players may not feature for the most well-known clubs, but Sanchez has had plenty of time to mould his squad into a formidable unit while also developing some solid continuity, as all of his players apply their trade locally in the Qatar Stars League.
Their most vital attribute might be the quality that they possess in the final third, but they also know a thing or two about maintaining an advantage, unbeaten when tallying the opening goal since falling 2-1 versus Iraq at the Gulf Cup on Boxing Day 2017.
For a side that did not have to go through the lengthy World Cup qualification process, Sanchez has still put his players to work, with Qatar playing four friendlies in less than a month this summer, while competing in 30 international fixtures since March 2021.
Before 2021, they had never faced a team from CONCACAF, but the Qataris have held their own in those seven matches against that region, posting three clean sheets at the Gold Cup and scoring the most goals in the group phase of that competition (nine).
Canada form (all competitions):
Qatar International Friendlies form:
Qatar form (all competitions):
We say: Canada 2-1 Qatar
Friday’s fixture could tell us a lot about how these teams are looking heading into the World Cup, and they should be a good match for one another.
Both know how to buckle down and hold a lead, but we are giving the Canadians an edge because they have more proven attacking talent who have performed consistently well both internationally and in some of the most competitive leagues in Europe.