Na­tional coach sees host­ing as ‘fan­tas­tic’ for Canada

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

The prospect of coach­ing a World Cup on home soil helped draw John Herd­man to leave his New Zealand coach­ing job to take over the Cana­dian women.

“Are we the favourites for this event? No,” Herd­man told a news con­fer­ence in Ed­mon­ton in June 2015 on the eve of his Cana­dian team kick­ing off the Women’s World Cup. “Can we get on a roll in this tour­na­ment with our coun­try be­hind us? Yes.”

In­spire the na­tion was the Cana­dian women’s mantra three years ago. Now Herd­man, in charge of the Cana­dian men’s pro­gram, has another home soc­cer show­case to look for­ward to in the wake of Wed­nes­day’s vote award­ing the 2026 men’s World Cup to the joint North Amer­i­can bid of Canada, the U.S. and Mex­ico.

“It’s fan­tas­tic. It’s big mo­ment, a huge mo­ment,” Herd­man said in an in­ter­view. “I thought the Women’s World Cup in 2015 would be sort of the pin­na­cle of be­ing part of Cana­dian foot­ball. But this is just mas­sive for our coun­try. I think we all know the im­pact this will have both on and off the field.

“So to be part of it, to be able to con­trib­ute some way, some how, it’s a priv­i­lege and an hon­our.”

FIFA and CONCACAF have yet to say whether all three co-hosts will have au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion for 20236 as is the norm. Given the ex­panded field of 48 teams - and seven slots for CONCACAF in 2026 as com­pared to 3 1/2 in the cur­rent smaller 32-team ver­sion - and the fact that the home teams will sell tick­ets, it would be a stun­ner if they weren’t a promi­nent fea­ture.

Herd­man has his eyes on another World Cup as well.

“Look, I hope I’m go­ing to be part of the men’s one in Qatar 2022,” he said.

Herd­man says his cur­rent crop of play­ers has a “deep­burn­ing de­sire” to qual­ify for Qatar. Canada has only made one men’s World Cup - in 1986 in Mex­ico when it lost three straight with­out scor­ing a goal.

But he says the suc­cess­ful World Cup bid “changes the land­scape,” offering youth some­thing to shoot for as well as “clar­ity to all of those peo­ple who are pas­sion­ate about our game.”

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