TORONTO, Canada—As Wake the Red’s Mitchell Tierney reported last week, the Canadian men’s national team will indeed return to action in January as part of a preparatory camp ahead of FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which are set to begin in March 2021.
The January camp, which will not be limited, will feature two clashes in training, as well as a showdown between Canada in Bradenton, FL, USA at the IMG Center, which means it doesn’t sound like games will be played against another nation. No date has been confirmed for the camp in January 2021, but Waking the Red reported last week that Canada Soccer was watching potential dates between January 9 and 24.
“As a step towards qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, the January camp provides our men’s national team with an opportunity to tactically and culturally re-immerse the group in competitive matches in March,” John Herdman, head coach of the Canadian men’s national team, said in a press release. “Since we are on the field for the first time with some players after more than a year, it will be important to focus on performance as we build towards the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022.”
Canada has revealed its list for the upcoming camp, and to perhaps a big surprise, it also includes a young man from Toronto FC, Ayo Akinol, a Michigan-born striker from Brampton. Aquinola recently represented the U.S. men’s national team at a non-capped camp, where he scored a goal on his debut before taking his knee in protest of racial injustice.
The camp also houses the Arsenal FC academic product Marcelo Flores, which like Aquinola is still unbound. He still has the right to represent Mexico or Canada, which made this January camp much more important to Herdman and associates.
This is going to be a very big camp for John Herdman. For the first time he has his own group in person in a year. Prepare for the critical matches that are coming in the new year and the opportunity to impress a couple of high-profile dual citizens. Exciting times for #CanMNT
– Mitchell Tierney (@mitchelltierney) December 23, 2020
Including Akinola, a total of seven Toronto FC players have been named to the camp: Richie Laryea, Jonathan Osorio, Liam Fraser, Noble Okello, Jayden Nelson and for the first time Ralph Priso.
With the gathering that took place in January – in the middle of many European seasons – the list of selected names was limited to that (mostly) in North America. However, Canada managed to fool The Corbeanu of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Flores of Arsenal, Belala Halbouni of SV Werder Bremen and Frank Sturing of FC Den Bosch.
With the Concacaf 2021 Olympic Qualifiers around the corner, there are 18 players born in 1997 or later who have been named to the camp, making them eligible for the upcoming U-23 competition.
A complete list of Canada for their upcoming January camp can be found below.
Looking ahead to the January camp and the first round of Concacaf in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Canada will host Bermuda at home on Thursday, March 25, and then travel to meet the Cayman Islands on Sunday, March 28. In the next window, Canada travels to Aruba to play on Saturday, June 5, and then returns home and hosts Suriname on Tuesday, June 8. Details, including times and locations, will be announced later.