‘It’s exciting for everyone’: Winnipeg fans watch Canada’s 1st FIFA World Cup since 1986 – Winnipeg

With Canada set to make its first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in more than 30 years on Wednesday, a longtime Winnipeg football watcher admits it may not be easy for any Manitoba fan to choose a team to cheer for .

Héctor Vergara, executive director of the Manitoba Soccer Association, says some newcomers to Canada may be torn between having firm roots in the country they were born in or the country they now call home.

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“You’re a new Canadian and all of a sudden you’re stuck in this conflict — ‘which team am I cheering for?'” Vergara told 680 CJOB Wednesday morning.

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Canadians prepare to cheer on Team Canada’s World Cup game

“That’s why the World Cup is so wonderful.

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“It touches so many people from so many different backgrounds – it’s exciting for everyone.”

It’s been quite a while since Canadian football fans have had a chance to feel torn over who to cheer for at the World Cup – the Canadian team last qualified for the elite tournament in 1986.

And the team will have work to do in Wednesday afternoon’s opening match against 2018 semi-finalists Belgium, who sit second in the FIFA rankings.

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Canada’s only appearance in the footballing world to date was a goalless performance in three defeats 36 years ago against France, Hungary and the Soviet Union, with a squad that included Bob Lenarduzzi, Tino Lettieri and Branko Segota.

Team Canada 2022 will be led by a new generation led by Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Cyle Larin. They finished first in CONCACAF qualifying, a turnaround engineered by John Herdman. He coached the Canadian women to bronze medals at the 2012 and 16 Olympics, then switched to coaching the men in 2018.

While Vergara thinks Belgium are a strong team – one of the best in the world – he says Canada shouldn’t be left out.

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Canada’s World Cup journey begins

“Canada also have a strong team … I think they have the skills and motivation to do well,” he said before the 1:00 p.m. CST game.

“If they play to the best of their ability – (at) their best level – I think they can cause trouble for Belgium.”

Ultimately, Vergara is confident that this year’s World Cup appearance will be the first of many to come for Canada.

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“That’s the whole aim of going to the World Cup, to motivate your country, to motivate your young people to keep striving to be better players,” he said.

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“So that coaches become better coaches and referees become better referees and the whole system improves.

“Ultimately, we hope that this competition and this opportunity that Canada has will motivate many young people to continue striving to reach the highest possible level.”

Click here to play the video: 'Politics dampen enthusiasm for FIFA World Cup hosted in Qatar'

Politics are dampening enthusiasm for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Canada received good news on Tuesday when it was revealed that winger Davies – the team’s most dangerous player – has recovered from a hamstring injury and has been declared fit to play.

Belgium are currently seen as favorites to win Group F, which also includes 2018 finalists Croatia and Morocco, who are ranked at No. 22 in the world.

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However, Belgium will be without their star striker Romelu Lukaku, who has not played in almost a month with a hamstring injury.

Canada is 41st in the FIFA rankings.

— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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