Canada has talent to qualify for 2022 World Cup, new coach says
Octavio Zambrano makes his debut as national team coach in Montreal on June 13 versus Curacao
Octavio Zambrano will kick off a new era for Canadian soccer in Montreal on Tuesday night when his team hosts Curacao in an friendly match at Saputo Stadium.
The game is being billed as a tune-up match for the upcoming Gold Cup, but Zambrano says it's the start of building toward a much bigger goal: qualifying for the World Cup.
"We have a lot of talented players. Perhaps [in the past] we have been a little bit laissez-faire in how we approach certain key matches," Zambrano says.
Canada has not qualified for the World Cup since 1986.
The attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup ended last September when the squad finished third behind Honduras and Mexico in its regional qualifying group.
Then coach Benito Floro was fired following the failure.
Zambrano says he's studied what went wrong and has come to the conclusion that Canada didn't lack the talent to advance.
"I've seen video of matches where the team needed to come through and it didn't. Those are the kind of things that we need to work on," Zambrano says.
Bernier back in the fold
To help rebuild Canada's program Zambrano has turned to the veteran Patrice Bernier.
Bernier has 53 caps with the national team in his career but hasn't suited up for Canada in almost three years.
He is also the captain of the Montreal Impact and has announced that this will be his final season before retirement.
"I twisted his arm a little bit to join us for the Gold Cup," Zambrano says "It's important to have players of his caliber to usher the new guys in."
Bernier, 37, is happy to be back with the program in the role of mentor.
"It's nice to be back in the fold. But also it's a challenge because you're working with a lot of players that could almost be my sons" Bernier said.
And while it hasn't been officially confirmed by Soccer Canada, it's likely Bernier will don the captain's arm band versus Curacao.
"It's the biggest honour you can have.… If it happens that'd be great but it won't change the way I am anyway," Bernier said.