Canada hopes to surprise their opponents in their first World Cup appearance in 36 years, according to midfielder Jonathan Osorio following a training session on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Canada will meet second-ranked Belgium, an ageing but still impressive team, in their first World Cup match since 1986. Other Group F opponents include 2018 World Cup champions Croatia and Morocco, who went undefeated in African qualifying.
“We want to show that we are a football nation, that we can compete with the best in the world,” said Osorio, who plays for Toronto FC in the MLS.
“We want to surprise people because I think people still see us as underdogs. ‘It’s the World Cup, they should just be happy to be here.’ But that’s not our mentality.”
To compete against Belgium, Osorio said Canada would need to be tactically sound, play as a unit and choose the right time to apply pressure against players like the stellar Kevin De Bruyne.
“They have players that can hurt you with an inch of space,” Osorio said.
Belgium are expected to be without their record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku, who trained apart from the squad on Sunday as he is struggling with a hamstring injury.
“As players, we just prepare for whoever we stand opposite to,” Osorio said of Lukaku’s absence.
Canada, the first CONCACAF country to book a spot in the 2022 finals, have appeared at the finals once before, in 1986, when they crashed out at the group stage with losses to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union and failed to score a goal.
Jonathan David, the country’s second-best goalscorer during the qualifying campaign, said he would keep in mind the prospect of becoming the first Canadian man to score at the World Cup.
“Everyone has this little thought they want to score the first goal because it’s going to be history,” the Lille forward said. “Of course for me to score, it would be amazing.”