We are proud to make history with Canada

We are proud to make history with Canada
  • Canada is currently on top of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers

  • In the coming weeks, duels against Honduras, USA and El Salvador are on the agenda

  • Defender Kamal Miller discusses the team’s rise and the importance of qualifying for the World Cup

In 2021, many success stories were written in football. But none of FIFA’s 211 member associations have matched Canada’s success.

The women’s team’s Olympic gold medals already ensured that it was an absolutely successful year for Canada, regardless of the performance of the men’s team, which was not expected to be much higher after decades of mediocrity.

But suddenly, at the start of the World Cup year, coach John Harderman’s side finds itself unbeaten at the top of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Canada’s men’s squad has advanced more than any other team in the 2021 FIFA/Coca-Cola world rankings after victories against Costa Rica and Mexico in November. Under Hardman’s leadership, the team climbed from 94th to 40th.

Kamal Miller has been a mainstay of the team throughout its remarkable growth, earning praise for his performances at the Canadian Defense Center. The 24-year-old centre-back belongs to a new generation of players who are redefining the nation’s expectations. With three major qualifiers ahead, he is eager to help bring the football story to a successful conclusion.

FIFA.com: Kamal, what is it like to be on top of the CONCACAF region with Canada in this final stage of World Cup qualifying? Kamal Miller: this is incredible. I have never seen Canada in such a situation in my entire life. Not even from afar. It’s a very special time and everyone on the team is so grateful to be part of the history-making generation. The excitement of the fans is higher than ever and now we want to increase it as much as possible.

Given that Canada is a team that has yet to top the world, how much of their success has to do with players changing their mindset as a team and seeing themselves as equals to the USA, Mexico and the rest? Is?
We have always believed in our abilities, but the most important thing was to back him with performances and play like a ‘big team’. The 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup was my first tournament with Canada and I could tell from the start that it was about aiming high to get to where we are. As players, we all saw that we got better and more confident with every training camp and every game. To support that progress and convince the country that we are a real team and a serious contender to qualify, we only needed results on paper. Now those results are out, and the numbers don’t lie.

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After all the successes of the past year and gold medals at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, it seems that Canadian football is really gaining steam at the moment…Definitely. To be honest, women have always set the standard in Canadian football – and quite high. As long as I am in the team, we have tried to emulate him, reach his level and achieve what he has achieved. I think we’re very proud of the men’s and women’s teams that we are a generation that is doing something really special and getting the respect that we want and deserve. This is great because everything that has happened in the past year shows generations to come that it is indeed possible to achieve something.

Following the Olympic victory, Christine Sinclair highlighted John Herdman’s role in leading Canada to success by instilling a new mindset in the team. Has he had the same influence here since moving to the men’s team?
That is certainly a big part of what we have achieved. Canada has never had such strong players, but as a coach you have to make the right choices and that is exactly what he does. He also manages to create good team chemistry and is very polite. There are many coaches who think they are bigger than their team, but he always shows us his appreciation and prepares us very carefully and with countless details for every game. We always feel that we can get a good result even though we are still considered underdog and we have a plan to achieve it.

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He talked about you a lot and obviously believed in you from the very early part of your career. How important was it to have the coach’s trust?
It was extremely important. I think the importance of the player-coach relationship in football is often underestimated. It is important for me to trust what my instructor says and to know that I have full confidence in him to carry out instructions.

While this is clearly not as important as the World Cup qualifying results, the players realized that they were the same team that had the most improvement in the FIFA/Coca-Cola world rankings last year. Are you a little proud of it too?Yes, definitely. We don’t let numbers and statistics guide us much, but we were very happy that we were able to make the most of improvements. This is extremely important. And it wasn’t just the best player, it was the best team, and that’s something we’re proud of. We are a team, a family and it is good to see that the hard work we put in is paying off.

Alfonso Davies is arguably the most recognizable name on the Canadian team. But it seems that the family mood you are talking about fits very well and do not expect to be in any position …
It’s true, and it comes from Alfonso himself. He is a superstar, one of the biggest names in football and in his position he can play for any team in the world. It fills me with pride that he is Canadian when I watch him do his job. But he is just one of us in the national team and I think he enjoys it a lot. He is as comfortable as he was with his brothers and we all really enjoy each other’s company. ‘Fonzi’ doesn’t care about headlines. He only wants the best for everyone on the team – and he wants us to win.

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They now have three crucial games, with home games against the USA sandwiched between away games in Honduras and El Salvador. How do you approach the very different challenges that exist in these games?As you rightly said, all three games will be very different and we have to show different qualities in each one. It’s obvious, but it’s not really about taking on these challenges one by one and pushing yourself. It’s great to be in first place, but we know this can change quickly, so let’s be humble and hungry.

You said the excitement in Canada has grown tremendously because of your successes in qualifying so far. What do you think it will mean for football in this country if Canada does indeed qualify for the World Cup?
I truly believe it will unite the country and open many doors for any Canadian who wants to play football. It will ignite the imagination, give children even more dreams and it will bring more respect for football across the country and at all levels. We need to qualify for the World Cup to go to the next level and that is what we really want.

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