If someone, anyone, had sat me down a few weeks back as I was buying anything and everything that had “Qatar 2022” printed on it and said “look Ben, the World Cup can be a painful place and you probably won’t like it”, it would have saved me money, optimism and a few grey hairs.
It’s been trash for me personally and I’m quite glad I don’t have a vested interest in it anymore. The last game that I was genuinely bothered about was this one, purely because I’d signed a non-lucrative contract to cover all of Canada’s games in the form of this column.
Of course, there was no way in hell that they could get out of this group based on their last two results, but the aim, I guess, was to try and register at least a point. The chances of that happening effectively evaporated within five minutes as the Atlas Lions took the lead against John Herdman’s men to put them well and truly in the stinker.
Our man was booked shortly after and at that point, it looked like being a very long hour and a bit. The offensive line was about as quick as Internet Explorer and Morocco were threatening to run riot. But just as the crest began to fall on the shoulders of the Maple Leafs, a lifeline was tossed to them like one of those orange ring things you find around local ponds to rescue struggling geese, dogs or small humans who are well out of their depth water-wise.
An OG on 40 minutes on the clock (from a chap I drafted into my fantasy team, I might add) sent Hoilett and co into the water break with a glimmer of hope that they may indeed secure a point. A late-afternoon coffee (still at work, wasn’t I) perked me up as I checked my emails, made a quick phone call and got ready for the lads to absolutely smash it.
It was fair to say Junior’s set pieces hadn’t been great, but neither the county of Berkshire nor the nation of Canada needed Martin flipping Keown slagging him off anymore (side note: I always preferred Les Ferdinand’s arrival to his in that crazy winter of 2005). His first decent corner found the head of Atiba Hutchinson who smashed one against the frame of the goal and down onto the line before bouncing away like an erratic sprout.
The game fizzled out as the Canucks snuck out of the World Cup after giving it a decent go. Looking back on the campaign as whole, they let themselves go in the game against Croatia. Certainly in the two games either side of that capitulation, they acquitted themselves fairly well and didn’t look out of place on the biggest stage of all.
But as we know, tournament football is a cruel mistress and teams have to compete in every game they turn up to. It’s incredibly doubtful that we’ll see Junior back at the Earth Cup ever again, but this tournament should give Canada as a team the springboard they need to compete at the top level once again.
For our number 23, it’s back to league action on the 10th against Coventry. After all, the Championship is the real quiz, right?
Until next time.