Canada's men's soccer team has seen margin for error is very slim

Despite his current soccer quest with the Canadian men’s team in the midst of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, John Herdman was watching every second of his former team’s World Cup loss Monday.

Coach Herdman watched the women's team make early World Cup exit Monday

Canada head coach John Herdman, left, and Lucas Cavallini walk off the field after the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League qualifying soccer match against French Guiana in Vancouver, on Sunday March 24, 2019. He hopes to continue to turnaround the men's team with a deep run at the Gold Cup. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Despite his current soccer quest with the Canadian men's team in the midst of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, John Herdman was watching every second of his former team's World Cup loss Monday.

Herdman, 43, took the Canadian women's team to a different level during his reign as coach from 2011 to 2018, bringing respectability to the program and two Olympic bronze medals. 

On Monday, the No. 5-ranked Canadian team lost 1-0 to Sweden, ending their World Cup journey in the round of 16. To say it was a disappointing result is an understatement. 

"I had the chance to watch the game. A World Cup has come to an end for a really good team," Herdman said during a conference call from Houston, Texas on Thursday. 

"That's football. It reminds you that the margins are so slim. A penalty save."

The penalty save Herdman is referring to has been under scrutiny since the final whistle sounded. Many have questioned why one the game's most prolific scorers ever, Christine Sinclair, didn't take the kick over Janine Beckie.

Beckie said Sinclair asked her during the video review of the handball if she wanted to take the penalty kick. 

"I said, 'It's up to you.' And she told me to take it," Beckie explained.

WATCH | Penalty kick save ends Canada's tournament:

FIFA World Cup Wrap: Penalty kick save ends Canada's tournament

4 years ago
Duration 1:24
Janine Beckie was robbed of a goal when Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl made an incredible save, leading her country to a 1-0 win.

Herdman wouldn't comment on the decision specifically, but did talk about the pressure surrounding these big moments on the pitch. 

"This is international football," Herdman said. "The margin in these knock-out games is very slim. This game will be no different for us."

Quarter-final match against Haiti looms

The game Herdman is referring to is this Saturday's quarter-final match against Haiti. 

Canada cruised into Saturday's knock-out game after disposing of Cuba in prolific fashion, 7-0.

Lucas Cavallini and Jonathan David both had hat tricks, making it the first-ever double hat trick performance by a Canadian men's duo. The seven goals against Cuba also set a Canadian record for goals in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match.

Through three group stage matches, Canada finished with six points and a 2-0-1 record, defeating Martinique 4-0, losing to Mexico 3-1, and finishing with a 7-0 win over Cuba. That sets up their quarter-final game against Haiti. 

WATCH | Canada score early and often in rout of Cuba:

Match Wrap: Canada score early and often in rout of Cuba

4 years ago
Duration 1:19
Lucas Cavallini and Jonathan David registered hat tricks in Canada's 7-0 beating of Cuba at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

"These players are very clear on what their mission is: To bring respect to our flag in the football world and step forward with a talented group," Herdman said. 

Canada's men's national team is currently ranked 78th in the world, wedged between Iraq and Curacao. The team has twice captured the Gold Cup, in 1985 and 2000. The event takes place every two years. Canada's best finish since winning it all 19 years ago is two, third-place finishes.

This is Herdman's first true international test event as the national men's coach since taking over for Octavio Zambrano in January, 2018. He's been bold with his aspirations for the program, with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

He also wants to build a solid foundation in advance of the 2026 World Cup being held in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

There's a new attitude and excitement around the men's program, fuelled by the spirited and animated Herdman — the presence of a talented youth group led by the likes of Bayern Munich teenager Alphonso Davies is also breathing new life into the team.

"The pressure is already on internally," Herdman said. "They have to step forward in this tournament to raise our flag higher. I'm confident they'll give their best."