World Cup 2022: 5 players who will define Canada's success in Qatar

Jonathan David will be one to watch for Team Canada at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Jonathan David will be one to watch for Team Canada at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

With Canada set to embark on their first FIFA World Cup journey since 1986, here’s a list of players who are primed to make an impact.

Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge, Belgian First Division A)

The 23-year-old from Brampton, Ont., has certainly had a year to remember. He was invited to join Canada’s senior national team in January 2021 and made his debut in June the same year.

Buchanan made an instant impact debuting under head coach John Herdman, setting up two goals en route to Canada’s 7-0 victory over Aruba in World Cup qualification last June. Since then, he’s gone on to make his UEFA Champions League debut on Oct. 4 versus Atlético Madrid and has featured a total of 343 minutes on Europe’s biggest stage through four outings.

The natural winger will look to provide consistency for Herdman when Team Canada begins their World Cup tournament against Belgium on Nov. 23.

Buchanan’s ability with the ball at his feet will present an element of speed down the flanks. His tenacity and work rate will allow him to be a real threat on the counter attack against top flight international squads like Belgium and Croatia.

Throughout Canada’s World Cup qualifying run where they topped all competitors in CONCACAF, Buchanan chipped in with three goals and five assists in 17 appearances.

A goal and an assist along with five shot attempts from Buchanan against Jamaica helped Canada clinch its first World Cup berth in nearly four decades.

The young winger has a real opportunity to break through as a pivotal piece of Canada’s men’s national team. Buchanan is surely one to keep an eye on when he and his teammates depart for Qatar in less than a month’s time.

Jonathan David (Lille OSC, Ligue 1)

Lille, the 2021 Ligue 1 champions, have a forward in great form at the moment.

Jonathan David has started out the 2022-23 season with one thing on his mind: goals. Through the opening 13 matches, David has scored nine and tacked on three assists.

The Canadian has almost already matched his 15-goal season from 2021-22 when he made 38 appearances.

The 2019 Canadian men’s player of the year has picked up right where he left off for the french side after becoming a huge goal threat for Canada through qualification, where he notched nine goals. David along with his fellow national team members Alphonso Davies, Lucas Cavallini and Canada’s all-time leading goalscorer Cyle Larin combined for 32 tallies.

The 22-year-old’s early season success is music to Herdman’s ears as he will lean heavily on David’s goal-scoring ability in Qatar. David’s form will certainly play a factor in ensuring Canada doesn’t go goalless at a World Cup, as it did in 1986.

A successful tournament for David would boost his profile among major Champions League competitors ahead of the January transfer window.

Three Premier League clubs in Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are believed to be lining up offers to sign the Canadian centre-forward. David has expressed his interest to play for a "massive club" if the opportunity presented itself.

With plenty to play for in the upcoming World Cup, look for David to bring energy and make a difference on the scoresheet.

Stephen Eustáquio (FC Porto, Primeira Liga)

Every team with plans on being successful at the World Cup needs to have a reliable midfielder.

For Canada, look no further than Stephen Eustáquio.

The 25-year-old born in Leamington, Ont., played for Portugal at the youth level and in 2019 made a commitment to Canada. Since his inclusion into Canada’s national program he’s made 26 appearances, recording a trio of both goals and assists.

After permanently joining FC Porto on loan, Eustáquio has put together an impressive run of matches. Most recently in the Champions League, scoring goals in consecutive games against Larin and Buchanan’s Club Brugge in addition to Atlético Madrid.

As of Nov. 1, Eustáquio leads all group stage players with 70 km ran through four matches. He generated eight shots with five of them landing on target.

Herdman’s ideal starting central midfielders most likely includes some sort of combination between Jonathan Osorio, Marc-Anthony Kaye, Atiba Hutchinson and Eustáquio.

Canada’s No. 7 is set to take on an important role in Qatar. If he can carry over the form he’s shown recently at the club level, Eustáquio will have plenty of touches throughout the middle of the pitch.

Eustáquio has shown that he’s capable of playing strong defensively, and with him in the thick of plays on both sides of the pitch, it’ll be tough for viewers to keep their eyes off of him.

Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich, Bundesliga) & Cyle Larin (Club Brugge, Belgian First Division A)

Last but certainly not least, Alphonso Davies and Cyle Larin will undoubtedly be a duo to keep tabs on.

Davies is the most obvious of the two, even though Larin sits atop the all-time scoring charts for Canada with 25 goals in 54 appearances. The former Vancouver Whitecap and Champions League winner will have to be Canada’s best footballer on the field.

With elite speed and skill, the 22-year-old has the greatest potential to take over a game.

Davies has become a dynamic playmaker for both club and country. He’s shown that time and again, whether it was his memorable performance against Barcelona or going viral after scoring against Panama. Davies is a star.

Larin on the other hand has the finishing ability and aerial strengths to give Herdman options in the striking position. He will most likely line up alongside David when Canada takes on Belgium.

Through qualifying, Larin tucked away 13 goals and was Canada’s most consistent goal-scorer.

Larin has the luxury to be able to play up front in an attack that features a player like Davies.

With Davies’ vision and speed down either side of the pitch and Larin's finishing ability, Herdman will be hoping the two can keep opponents on their heels in Qatar.

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