CanMNT Versus Japan Ends in a Solid 2-1 Win

CanMNT forward Jonathan David with the ball as the CanMNT edges Japan at Al Maktoum Stadium

ANALYSIS – Much the same as last week in Bahrain, the conditions were hot and humid in Doha. But with a clean and tidy pitch came a more clean and tidy performance from CanMNT versus Japan at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

In Canada’s second World Cup warm-up game, which saw some star features from the likes of Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan, and Atiba Hutchinson, Canada was tasked to contain a dynamic and relentless side in Japan. Head Coach John Herdman, before the game, called them “one of the best in the world in transitions.” Given this, many fans were expecting a tricky game, one that would showcase whether Canada was going to be up to the challenge in Qatar. After 90 minutes, it seems most fans were left satisfied.

CanMNT Versus Japan Ends in a Solid 2-1 Win

Slow to Start, but Solid Throughout

Given that it was Canada’s first game in a while with a semi-full strength lineup (missing star-boy Alphonso Davies and the in-form Stephen Eustáquio). There were bound to be a few nervy moments at the beginning of the game, while the players got their bearings. Japan took full advantage of this adjustment period with some strong pressure from the off and was rewarded when a dangerous over-the-top through ball from Leganes midfielder Gaku Shibasaki was met at speed by the electric Yuki Soma, who flicked it past the onrushing Milan Borjan to make it 1-0 (Source: OneSoccer’s Twitter Account).

Canada, however, responded in great fashion. The goal seemed to wake them up and spring them into action because, for the rest of the first half, they were dangerous in possession and well-organized at the back. The right side of Tajon Buchanan and Alistair Johnson caused headaches for Japan’s backline, while the set-piece delivery and vision from Junior Hoilett allowed Canada to get back into the game thanks to a well-worked corner that resulted in Steven Vitória thrashing it in from close range.

From the second half, except for a few threatening counters and one shot that rattled off the post, Canada was in control. They boasted 57 percent possession in the second half and were superior in pass accuracy (90 percent vs 80 percent) shots (5 vs 4), and big chances (1 vs 0) than Japan. Indeed, the last-minute penalty goal from Lucas Cavallini was a just reward for the tireless efforts of the whole team throughout the match.

Danger and Diversity in Attack for the CanMNT Versus Japan

While the names of David and Davies might be first on the list of dangermen for Canada, today’s game showed how versatile Canada’s game can be in the attack. Even though Cyle Larin had a quiet night tonight, Canada’s forward line was still menacing thanks to the likes of Tajon Buchanan, Alistair Johnson, Junior Hoilett, and of course, Jonathan David.

The interplay between them was fluid, usually just missing out on the final pass or touch, but their displays showed much promise for the upcoming World Cup tournament. The role of Alistair Johnson, specifically, cannot be understated. With Atiba coming back to join a back three, Johnson was allowed the freedom to push up and overload on that right side, giving Buchanan space to cut in or turn wide, and Larin or David to come short and spread the play.

And at the heart of it was Hoilett, pulling the strings across the pitch in his 50th cap for Canada. The way he would drift left and right depending on his position to unlock Japan’s defense was a performance deserving of the Man of the Match award. Dynamic, smart, and silky, he exhibited once more why he is one of Canada’s star performers in the last decade.

Although not the final product, the attacking lines of Canada did demonstrate the potential that Les Rouges have at hurting any backline that they may face in Qatar. It now falls onto Herdman and the players to turn attacks into clear chances, and clear chances into goals.

Captain Fantastic is Back

Perhaps the best sight of the night was seeing Atiba Hutchinson take the pitch again with the captain’s armband. The stalwart midfielder lined up with Samuel Piette in the middle of the pitch, and even though his counterpart is 11 years his junior and has played far more competitive games than him, Hutchinson proved once more why he is the heart and soul of this team.

Even though he only lasted 60 minutes, he had 45 touches, 94 percent passing accuracy, two interceptions, one clearance, one tackle, 4/4 ground duels won, and, of course, one clever assist to Vitoria for Canada’s equalizer. Stats aside, he simply looked comfortable, sharp, and composed on and off the ball. His poise allowed Canada to get back into the game after conceding early and he will no doubt be one of the first names on the team sheet for the game against Belgium.

Much-Needed Momentum from the CanMNT Versus Japan Game

With this win over 24th-ranked Japan, Canada can go into the first game of the World Cup feeling confident. And while many may point out that this was not a full-strength Japan side, neither was it a full-strength Canada side. The exclusion of Davies and Eustaquio means that Canada can only improve on their performance, given that they are fit and ready for the opening match. Nevertheless, the Boys in Red showed tenacity and spirit in this match and showcased to the world just a taste of what Canada can accomplish with this talented and unified squad.

It was a great win for the CanMNT, especially after that disappointing draw against Bahrain earlier this month. The CanMNT will start their FIFA World Cup campaign soon as they face Belgium on November 23 at 2:00 PM ET.

Photo Credit: Canada Soccer EN’s Twitter Account on November 17, 2022.