Canada

How Team Canada’s soccer players, coach did at the World Cup


After a memorable qualifying run to make the men’s World Cup for the first time in 36 years, Canada finished its tournament without a point.


They all deserve an A for getting Canada to Qatar, but here are player and coach grades to review their World Cup performance as a whole.


Dayne St. Clair, James Pantemis, Joel Waterman, Derek Cornelius, Liam Fraser, Samuel Piette, and Ike Ugbo are not included as they did not play a single minute.


All stats are from fbref.com


GOALKEEPER GRADE: D+


Milan Borjan – Minutes played: 270. Grade: D+


Borjan’s best moments came against Croatia with a long ball that switched play to the right that contributed to Canada scoring its first goal at a men’s World Cup and then a terrific save early in the second half of that match that kept his team in it.


His worst moments were the nightmare clearance against Morocco that led to the opposition’s opening goal, and not covering his near post for the second goal of that match.


DEFENCE GRADE: C


Alistair Johnston – Minutes played: 270. Grade: B


Steven Vitoria – Minutes played: 270. Grade: D


Kamal Miller – Minutes played: 270. Grade: C+


Richie Laryea – Minutes played: 160. Grade: B-


Sam Adekugbe – Minutes played: 95. Grade: B-


Johnston was one of Canada’s best performers at this tournament. The moments in which he did struggle were more attributable to the fact that he didn’t get enough defensive help against Croatia on the right side of the pitch.


Vitoria had several moments he’d like back. He came in with a reputation for being strong in the air but failed to manage long ball situations twice, first for Belgium’s goal in the opening match and then for Morocco’s second goal in the final match.


He also deserves some blame for Morocco’s first goal as it was his horrendous back pass that forced Borjan to rush out of goal in the first place.


Miller made several crucial last-ditch tackles but failed to pick up a wide-open Andrej Kramaric for Croatia’s backbreaking third goal and then made a complete mess of a clearance late for Croatia’s fourth.


  • Key stat: Miller led the team in combined tackles and interceptions with 10 and clearances with 11.


Laryea rewarded John Herdman’s faith in him with solid performances and this tournament represents a huge bounce back for him after Premier League club Nottingham Forest signed him, didn’t play him, then loaned him off to Toronto FC.


Adekugbe didn’t receive very many minutes, which came as a surprise. His role only grew during Canada’s qualifying campaign and he looked effective in the minutes he did receive. Whipped in the deflected cross that resulted in Canada’s second goal at a World Cup.


MIDFIELD GRADE: C+


Atiba Hutchinson – Minutes played: 159. Grade: C


Stephen Eustaquio – Minutes played: 125. Grade: B+


Jonathan Osorio – Minutes played: 119. Grade: B-


Ismael Kone – Minutes played: 109. Grade: C+


Mark-Anthony Kaye – Minutes played: 59. Grade: C


Hutchinson was very good against both Belgium and after coming on as a substitute against Morocco. Croatia, however, was a nightmare.


It would have been so fitting if his header that smashed the crossbar actually went in and clinched Canada’s first point at a men’s World Cup. He’s been the heart and soul of this program.


Eustaquio looked very good for Canada until his hamstring gave way. His nutmeg of arguably the best midfielder in the world in Kevin De Bruyne followed by a great cross into the box was the highlight of his tournament.


  • Key stat: Eustaquio led the team in shot creating actions per 90 minutes at 4.32.


Osorio embraced the super-sub role in the first two matches and came within inches of tying the match against Croatia 2-2 with a curling shot from outside the box. He had other bright moments as well and gave his best as a starter after a long layoff with Toronto FC due to post-concussion syndrome.


20-year-old Kone expectedly had some raw moments when it came to his defensive awareness but just as evident was his physicality, passing, and composure for such a young age.


  • Key stat: Kone completed 12 of 13 passes longer than 30 yards, the highest completion rate of anyone with at least 10 attempted.


WINGER GRADE: B-


Alphonso Davies – Minutes played: 270. Grade: B+


Tajon Buchanan – Minutes played: 260. Grade: B-


Junior Hoilett – Minutes played: 161. Grade: B


David Wotherspoon – Minutes played: 15. Grade: C+


Liam Millar – Minutes played: 10. Grade: C


Considering there were fitness concerns entering the tournament after picking up a hamstring injury with Bayern Munich, Alphonso Davies was Canada’s best player.


He certainly waxed and waned over the course of the matches but he was the best player on the pitch across both sides at his peak.


  • Key stat: Davies led the team in successful dribbles with 11.


Buchanan also had peaks and valleys in his performances like Davies but had both a lower ceiling and floor. He had several moments where he dazzled with the ball at his feet, but will need to improve his knack for goals.


Twice he made the right run into the box but didn’t have the ideal technique to direct his attempt on target.


Hoilett was in the mix with Johnston for Canada’s most consistent performer. He was the team’s best player against Morocco and nearly had an assist when his corner found Hutchinson’s head, only for the attempt to hit the crossbar.


  • Key stat: Hoilett led all non-defenders with nine combined tackles and interceptions as well as crosses with 13.


STRIKER GRADE: D


Jonathan David – Minutes played: 192. Grade: F


Cyle Larin – Minutes played: 137. Grade: C


Lucas Cavallini – Minutes played: 19. Grade: C-


There was no bigger disappointment at this tournament than David. He plays in France’s top league, has Champions League experience, and was nowhere near good enough.


Herdman even dropped him from the starting XI for the match against Morocco. Opposing teams certainly knew his importance and gave him his due respect, but for a player who has been tied with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham in the transfer rumour mill, he fell well short of expectations.


  • Key stat: David finished the tournament with a team-leading 11 touches in the opposition’s penalty area and failed to do anything of significance with them.


Larin didn’t do much against Croatia after an important involvement in Canada’s first goal but was solid against Morocco and was lively against Belgium after coming on as a substitute.


COACHING GRADE: C


John Herdman


Herdman got everything right against Belgium but plenty wrong against both Croatia and Morocco. His mission at this tournament was to show a brave Canada but it’s a thin line between that and naivety.


It was good that he apologized for and regretted his “eff Croatia” comment, but at the end of the day it created an unnecessary circus.


He failed to recognize the need to substitute Hutchinson against Croatia soon enough as the opposition had too much time and space to work with in the midfield. The set up against Morocco to start the match was puzzling, especially Davies playing on the right side for the first time.


For the 135 minutes of very good soccer Canada played, there were at least another 90 where the team was objectively poor. Increasing the floor of the team’s performance is a major challenge going forward, some of which comes down to the personnel available to him and some will involve recognizing when to be a bit more pragmatic.


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