Canada should advance in World Cup qualifying — but the going gets tougher
2 matches in next 4 days will determine whether Canada moves on
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Canada's World Cup qualifying quest resumes this weekend
The Canadian men's soccer team got off to a strong start in regional qualifying for the 2022 World Cup back in late March, routing overmatched Bermuda and the Cayman Islands 5-1 and 11-0, respectively. Canada returns to action Saturday and Tuesday for its final two matches of the opening round. Here's what you need to know about them, and Canada's path to advancing:
Canada is in control. Only the winner of the five-team group advances to the second round. If Canada beats Aruba on Saturday (8 p.m. ET) and Suriname on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET), it will win the group. That shouldn't be a problem. Canada is ranked 70th in the world — well above Aruba (a group-worst 205th) and Suriname (136th). And the Canadians don't need to worry about going into a hostile environment. Due to travel restrictions, both matches are taking place on neutral turf in the United States. A draw in either of these matches could make things messy, but Canada is well-positioned right now to win a tiebreaker with its group-best goal differential of plus-15. The biggest worry is a loss to Suriname, which could hand them the group if Suriname beats Bermuda at home tonight. So Tuesday's match, just outside Chicago, could be a big one.
Jonathan David is back. The 21-year-old striker isn't nearly as famous as Canada's biggest soccer star, but he had an Alphonso Davies-like season. Playing for Lille in France's Ligue 1, David scoring 13 goals to break the single-season record for a Canadian player in one of European soccer's "big five" leagues. David's exceptional two-way game (he's also very good defensively) helped Lille steal the league championship from deep-pocketed powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain. He was unavailable for Canada's March qualifying matches because the French league wouldn't release its foreign players for national-team duty outside Europe. But David is good to go now, and it'll be fun to see him out there with Davies, who just helped Bayern Munich to another Bundesliga title. They should be the core of the Canadian team for years to come.
The going gets tougher. The winner of Canada's group will face the winner of Group E — most likely Haiti, which is ranked 83rd in the world. This matchup is two legs — one in each country. The winners of the three second-round matchups advance to the final round, where the top five teams in the region (Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras) join in for an eight-team tournament that sees everyone play 14 matches (a home-and-away vs. each other country), starting in the fall. The teams with the three best records qualify for the World Cup, and the fourth-place team earns one last shot via a two-leg intercontinental playoff matchup in June 2022. The World Cup kicks off Nov. 21, 2022 in Qatar. Read more about Canada's roster for the next two qualifying matches here.
The Jets-Habs series is heating up. Literally. The temperature in Winnipeg, which hosts Game 2 tonight, reached a very un-hockey-like 38 degrees C today. Emotions are also running hot after Jets star Mark Scheifele sent Montreal's Jake Evans off on a stretcher with a violent hit near the end of the Canadiens' Game 1 win. The NHL threw the book at Scheifele last night, suspending him for the next four games. Scheifele called the punishment "excessive," but said he wouldn't appeal. Read more about the mood heading into Game 2 here. Watch the game at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, or stream it for free on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.
Brooke Henderson fell back at the U.S. Women's Open. The Canadian came into today one stroke behind the leaders after shooting 3-under for her opening round at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. But, at our publish time, she was 5-over for her first 14 holes today and had dropped out of the top 30. American high-schooler Megha Ganne, who owned a share of the lead after round one, still had it when she completed an even-par round today. Henderson, 23, is looking for her second major title and first since the 2016 Women's PGA Championship. See the updated leaderboard here.
LeBron James and the Lakers were dethroned. Phoenix rising star Devin Booker scored 47 points last night to help eliminate the defending NBA champs in six games and deal LeBron the first opening-round defeat of his career. The Suns will now face presumptive MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. Despite missing star Canadian guard Jamal Murray (torn ACL in April), Denver finished off Portland in six last night. The Lakers' title defence was doomed by shaky health. Star big man Anthony Davis' Game 4 groin injury effectively ended his series, and LeBron never seemed fully recovered from the high ankle sprain he suffered in late March. Some are blaming this on the Lakers' historically short off-season (the pandemic pushed the 2020 NBA Finals into mid-October and this season started on Dec. 22) and the compressed 2020-21 schedule. But if you think that's tough, consider what women's basketball players endure. Many of them play in the WNBA from May to October, then supplement their income by joining an overseas league for the other half of the year. This summer is even busier with the Olympics and national-team training camps and exhibitions. Read more about the relentlessness of the women's basketball schedule in this story by CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.
A Canadian boxer positive-tested his way off the Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul undercard. Saturday night's stunt fight between the 44-year-old former champ and the YouTube star is hardly on the level. It pits one of the greatest boxers of all time vs. someone who is not a professional boxer and lost his only fight of record to another YouTuber. Also, Paul has about 30 pounds on Mayweather — which would be extremely dangerous if not for the fact that Paul is, again, not a professional boxer. Oh, and there will be no judges scoring the fight. So the rules of traditional boxing are clearly being bent here. But former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal may have taken the loose vibes a little too far. He tested positive for four (4!) banned drugs ahead of his scheduled bout with Badou Jack, which had been billed as the co-main event. The Canadian called the positive tests "an isolated event" and claimed he "would never voluntarily take illegal substances."
This weekend on CBC Sports
Here's what you can stream on the internet and watch on TV tonight and this weekend:
Olympic baseball qualifying: Canada has reached the final four of its regional qualifier in Florida, where the winner of the tournament gets a spot in the Tokyo Olympics and the second- and third-place finishers earn another chance at the final qualifier later this month. In the so-called super round of the current qualifier, each team plays two more games. Canada faces the United States tonight at 7 p.m. ET, then Jose Bautista and the Dominican Republic on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The Canadian team starts this round with an 0-1 record because its group-stage loss to Venezuela (the other team in the final four) carries over. The team with the best record after the super round wins the tournament. Stream every game live here and on CBC Gem.
Rowing: Watch a World Cup regatta in Italy on Saturday from 3:45-7 a.m. ET and Sunday from 2:30-6 a.m ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.
Beach volleyball: Watch men's and women's playoff-round matches at the World Tour event in the Czech Republic Saturday from 4 a.m. ET to 1:20 p.m. ET and Sunday from 4-10:20 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.
Indoor volleyball: Watch the Canadian men's team play Italy on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET, and the Canadian women's team face Poland on Sunday at 11:45 a.m. ET here.
Judo world championships: Watch women's and men's bouts Sunday from 4 a.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.
Road to the Olympic Games: This week's show features both indoor and beach volleyball. Watch it Saturday from 1-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.
You're up to speed. Have a good weekend.