Canada drew 2-2 against Bahrain at the Al-Khalifa Stadium in Bahrain in their second-to-last warm-up game ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Ismaël Koné opened the scoring in the 6th minute for the Canadians, touching a long Kamal Miller ball behind the defense to sprint in clear on goal and finish, but Mahdi Al-Humaidan levelled eight minutes later, capitalizing on a turnover.
The hosts took the lead in the 65th minute from the penalty spot through Abdulla Yusuf Helal after Alistair Johnston was adjudged to have clipped the heels of a Bahraini attacker driving into the area, but an own-goal in the 81st minute off Ali Abdulla Haram – touching in a driven ball from Zachary Brault-Guillard that took a deflection off of Lucas Cavallini – saw the match end all square.
“A very good test and the sort of test we needed,” said Canada Men’s National Team Head Coach John Herdman to Canada Soccer post-match. “We knew Bahrain were going to treat this like a big match and they brought a real intensity. It's what we needed to shake off some of the rust and for me to be able to assess some players at this level.”
“What we learned is there were some good moments, but there's still some work to be done,” he continued. “What we came to get we took tonight.”
Jonathan Osorio went the full 90 for Canada.
“It was a tough game for sure,” said the Toronto FC midfielder. “They're a good team, they played together really well, but our boys showed great commitment today, great effort. We stuck through together and we found the draw. We know we have some things to improve for sure, but there was a lot of positives out there.”
It was the first complete game for Osorio since August 20.
“Amazing. Amazing,” he smiled. “It's been tough. Everybody's always going through something, I had my own thing and luckily with the support of my family, everybody, the staff here always keeping in touch. Everybody helped me to come back and get to this point. I'm just really happy to be with the boys.”
Osorio, Richie Laryea and Mark-Anthony Kaye of TFC were all in the starting XI, as was former Red Raheem Edwards, but defender Doneil Henry, set to captain the side, was forced to pull out in warm-ups.
“He was just devastated,” said Herdman of Henry’s late exclusion. “It was one of the toughest moments of my career today to see the big man suffering in there. It was a tough night.”
“We'll assess him, that's all we can do,” he added. “We can assess him and just see where he's at.”
With a wider circle of candidates called into this preparatory camp before the arrival of the European contingent, Friday’s match also saw TFC defender Lukas MacNaughton make his debut for the senior national team off the bench.
Ayo Akinola, making his first appearance under Herdman since injuring his knee in the 2021 Gold Cup, and Jayden Nelson also saw action, providing a spark later in the game. As did a pair of former Reds in Liam Fraser and Jacob Shaffelburg.
“It was good,” said Osorio of the makeshift squad. “It was a group of guys that predominantly play in MLS and for Canadian teams, so I thought that was really cool. We fought together.”
“A lot of guys got a chance to experience the national team for the first time and this kind of environment,” he noted. “That’s great for the program going forward.”
The squad for Qatar 2022 will be revealed on TSN Sunday at 10 am ET, Canada will face Japan on November 17 in their final warm-up match before kicking off Group F on November 23 against Belgium.
“Very exciting,” said Osorio of the upcoming week. “This is what we've worked for this whole time. This has been our goal and our objective.”
“We used this game to get us ready, that was very important after some time off,” he continued. “We're going to use that as we join the whole group in Qatar.”
Roughly a week-and-a-half remains before that first taste of a World Cup match since 1986.
Herdman wants his side to use this time to ‘dial in.’
“The selection will happen. We're pretty clear on the 26 men that will take us into that next round,” he continued. “We add quality to the group.”
“More match fitness and cohesion as we build in the Japan game,” Herdman urged. “Another tough test, which we're excited about.”