Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David front Canada's 26-man roster for FIFA World Cup

Alphonso Davies, right, Jonathan David, middle, and Tajon Buchanan are all part of Canada's 26-man roster for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images/File - image credit)
Alphonso Davies, right, Jonathan David, middle, and Tajon Buchanan are all part of Canada's 26-man roster for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images/File - image credit)

Canadian head coach John Herdman on Sunday announced the 26-player roster that will represent the country in its first men's FIFA World Cup since 1986.

Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies and Lille's Jonathan David are the headliners for Qatar, with Porto's Stephen Eustáquio and Club Brugge's Cyle Larin among the other key players.

Herdman has dubbed his team "new Canada" as it returns to the soccer showcase in Qatar after a 36-year absence.

Besides the aforementioned group, the 41st-ranked team boasts plenty of firepower up front in Tajon Buchanan, Junior Hoilett, Lucas Cavallini, Liam Millar and Ike Ugbo.

The Canada roster includes 11 Major League Soccer players, including six from CF Montréal, three from Toronto FC and one from the Vancouver Whitecaps.

It also features defender Derek Cornelius, on loan from the Whitecaps to Greece's Panetolikos FC.

Liam Fraser, a midfielder deemed surplus to Toronto FC's requirements, made the team as did CF Montréal defender Joel Waterman, whose journey has taken him from the Canadian Premier League to the sport's ultimate stage.

Doubts over Davies put to rest 

Fears that Davies, Canada's most dynamic player, might miss the World Cup after picking up a hamstring injury have subsided.

The 22-year-old missed Bayern's last two Bundesliga games after sustaining the injury earlier this month.

Davies has played 34 times and scored 12 goals for Canada, who are returning to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.

"A kid born in a refugee camp wasn't supposed to make it! But here we are going to the World Cup. Don't let no one tell you that your dreams are unrealistic. Keep dreaming, keep achieving," tweeted Davies after the squad was announced.

The 32 teams have until Monday to name their roster. The only restriction on the roster is that it must include three goalkeepers.

Players on the World Cup roster who were part of the Bahrain camp are already in the Qatari capital of Doha. Those who were with their European clubs arrive Sunday or Monday.

WATCH l Canada Soccer unveils World Cup roster:

Atiba Hutchinson, a 39-year-old midfielder and Canada's captain, was the only player on the roster alive during Canada's last World Cup appearance in 1986.

Hutchinson made his first appearance of the season for Turkey's Beşiktaş on Wednesday after recovering from a bone bruise when he started a Turkish Cup match against Serik Belediyespor and played until the 70th minute

"For a guy who hasn't played since June in a preseason friendly, I thought his performance through 45 minutes was where it needed to be at this stage," Herdman said. "It was against the second-division team. So sometimes it's difficult to see — the challenge is going to look a bit different when you've got [Kevin] De Bruyne, [Axel] Witsel and [Youri] Tielemans in there against Belgium."

Canadians play a final tune-up Thursday against No. 24 Japan in Dubai and return to Doha after the game.

The World Cup runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18 with Canada opening play Nov. 23 against Belgium at 2 p.m. ET before facing Croatia (Nov. 27, 11 a.m.) and Morocco (Dec. 1, 10 a.m.) to conclude group play.

The top two teams in each of the eight opening-round pools advance to the knockout round of 16.

WATCH l Watch Episode 3 of the new CBC Sports show Soccer North:

Henry ruled out with injury

Canadian defender Doneil Henry will miss out on the tournament after an injury suffered in the warmup before Friday's 2-2 tie with Bahrain.

The 29-year-old Henry, who has won 44 caps for Canada, was to have captained Canada in Manama.

"The medical team assessed him and it wasn't great news to be fair, the timing of his return was going to take anything up to 14 days," said Herdman, in a conference call from Doha.

"Doneil put the team first, we could have tried to return him to play and had him later on in the tournament but he knew it was the right decision to make.

"It really shows the courage and what this brotherhood is about when a man can surrender his shirt and take that step forward to support the team in a different role."

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

There were no other surprises for Herdman, who used 33 players in the final of CONCACAF qualifying with 28 seeing action. Some decisions had already been made for him.

Defender Scott Kennedy (SSV Jahn Regensburg, Germany) and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (Los Angeles FC, MLS) were ruled out through injury earlier this month, with Kennedy sidelined by a shoulder issue and Crepeau requiring surgery to repair a leg broken in the MLS Cup final.

Because of Henry's injury, Hutchinson could see time in central defence rather than midfield.

"His experience puts him potentially ahead of some of the other centre backs," Herdman said.

Other than Hutchinson, fellow midfielder David Wotherspoon (knee) also made it back in time.

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio also made it into the squad after seeing just 18 minutes of Major League Soccer action since Aug. 18 due to post-concussion syndrome. But he played the full match in Bahrain.

Henry's injury likely opened up a place for midfielder Liam Fraser. While Herdman only named seven defenders, he has wingback options in Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett if needed alongside his preferred back three.

Herdman used 39 players, including Cristian Campagna who did not see action, across the three rounds of World Cup qualifying, which started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 25, 2021 with a 5-1 win over Bermuda in Orlando. Canada was ranked 73rd at the time.

The Canadians secured their ticket to Qatar with a 4-0 win over Jamaica in March at Toronto's BMO Field with one game to spare. They finished with a 14-2-4 record across three rounds of qualifying in the region, outscoring the opposition 54-8.

Herdman's team topped the final Octagonal round-robin with an 8-2-4 record.

More roster spots

FIFA announced in June it was changing the roster number to "at least 23 and a maximum of 26," citing "the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to the unique timing — November and December — of Qatar 2022.

The World Cup is traditionally held in the summer. But it was switched this time because of the heat in Qatar, meaning many leagues are playing around the tournament.

If a player on the roster picks up an injury or contracts COVID, he can be replaced up to the day before the team's first match.

Canada roster

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade — Serbia), James Pantemis (CF Montréal) and Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United).

Defenders: Alistair Johnston (CF Montréal), Derek Cornelius (Panetolikos — Greece), Richie Laryea (Toronto FC), Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor — Turkey), Steven Vitória (Chaves - Portugal), Kamal Miller (CF Montréal) and Joel Waterman (CF Montréal).

Midfielders: Stephen Eustáquio (Porto — Portugal), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş J.K.), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Toronto FC), Samuel Piette (CF Montréal), Liam Fraser (K.M.S.K. Deinze — Belgium), Ismaël Koné (CF Montréal) and David Wotherspoon (St Johnstone F.C. — Scotland).

Forwards: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich — Germany), Jonathan David (Lille — France) and Cyle Larin (Club Brugge — Belgium), Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge — Belgium), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), Junior Hoilett (Reading F.C. — England), and Ike Ugbo (ES Troyes AC — France).

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