It is certainly no fault of his own, but Canadian Men’s National Team goalkeeper Milan Borjan seems to be a major part of the lasting image of the disappointment Canadian soccer has experienced in recent years. With Canada needing a victory to advance to the knockout stages in the 2011 Gold Cup Borjan was in net for at 90th minute scramble that tied the game and eliminated Canada. His disappointment was evident. A year later, Borjan was again present in one of the most shocking events in Canadian soccer history, the 8-1 loss to Honduras which derailed their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He was not in the net that day. Instead it was veteran Lars Hirschfeld who was victimised by Honduras’ ferocious offensive onslaught. However, possibly the most famous image from the now infamous match shows Borjan with his arm around a fellow Canadian, evidently in shock. It is a sombre photo, one that demonstrated the lows of soccer. But it also represents a bit of hope, Borjan’s head is up, his expression remains determined, as if to say: “we will be here again”.
“I think we just had really bad luck that day,” Borjan tells Last Word On Sports, “We showed that we can play with Panama and Honduras, we had a great team and an excellent coach. I felt bad about the loss because we deserved to go through and get a much better result. All of the guys that were on the team had great desire to win, but luck just wasn’t on our side.”
The loss must have been frustrating for Borjan, who played the majority of the campaign as the second keeper behind the more experienced Hirschfeld, a goalkeeper who had been in these scenario’s before. However, Borjan believes that it is now time for him to take over: “I think it’s time because my skills are finally coming to light and I have shown great results for my club which I would love to extend to the national team and for us to achieve success because we deserve it.”
Either way, Milan Borjan, a native of Knin, SFR Yugoslavia, already considers his role with the national team to be the highlight of his career:”I am definitely most proud of joining the Canadian national team, by far that is my biggest career accomplishment and the only greater thing would be competing in the World Cup.” He may now be the favourite to take over in net for Canada, possibly just in time to lead the side to his dream of a World Cup appearance.
Contrary to the belief of the majority of supporters and media in Canada, he believes that the next World Cup cycle presents ample opportunity for the nation to qualify for just their second World Cup. Many Canadians have already turned their attention towards the 2022 World Cup, overlooking the next qualification campaign. Borjan believes this is an oversight as Canada “have a lot of experienced players which is crucial, especially competing at an international level. Therefore, I believe we will succeed [in qualifying].
A major part of why he makes a compelling case as the number one keeper for Canada is due to his incredibly impressive club form as of late. He is the starting goalkeeper for Sivasspor, a club in the top flight of Turkish football. Playing at the level has been of massive importance for his development. In this regard he has continued to impress, rendering himself one of the top goaltenders in his league.
“I’ve gained enormous experience [in Turkey] because I’m playing with a lot of world top players” Borjan dictates to Last Word On Sports, “and this experience, I think, is reflected in my great goalkeeping this season. Also, the Turkish league is among top five in the world. Different factors have contributed to my current success in Turkey, but most importantly it was the confidence I got from the coach and the entire team which has fueled me the most.”
Baring some unforeseen development, Milan Borjan inherit the starting job for Canada. Most likely commencing with the upcoming Gold Cup tournament, the first chance for the Senior Men’s program to turn the corner. His impressive statistics and performances in top flight European football this year has made him the clear front runner.
As Canada Soccer attempts to turn the page on one of their darkest hours, one thing is for certain: the goaltending is in highly capable and qualified hands.