Scotland vs. Canada | International Friendly Match Preview
SCOTLAND vs. CANADA
Wednesday, March 22, 3:45pm ET
Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland
TV: TSN GO, canadasoccer.com
Charged with leading the CanMNT to the 2022 World Cup while cultivating a larger, deeper player pool over the long term, the former MLS coach has a tall task ahead of him. But every journey starts with one step, and the Ecuadorian begins his Les Rouges adventure with a visit to one of the oldest national-team programs in the world.
Roster notes: Zambrano has called a heavily European-based squad for this game, while an Under-23 side – including four MLSers – has simultaneously been gathered to take part in a tournament in Qatar. Canada elected to leave several MLS-based regulars with their clubs on this occasion in a nod to ongoing league action.
Les Rouges’ dreams of Russia 2018 were crushed last year when they finished third in Group A of CONCACAF’s semifinal round of qualifying behind Mexico and Honduras, missing out on a place in the Hexagonal round and extending a World Cup drought that dates back to 1986.
The vacancy left by the immediate departure of Spanish boss Benito Floro has finally been filled by Zambrano, who has several months to evaluate his options before leading Canada into the 2017 Gold Cup this summer. The former LA Galaxy and MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) coach has identified the psychological battle as job 1.
“To convince the Canadian player that he is second to none,” Zambrano told reporters at his unveiling in Toronto on Friday. “That he is as good as any Mexican kid, any Honduran kid; that he can step on the field and face them in equal terms. Once a player convinces himself of that, the rest will come. [Now], before we step on the field we already have this inferiority complex. We have to kill that, get rid of it.”
The Tartan Terriers are in the midst of UEFA World Cup qualifying and will use this game as a warm-up for a crucial home clash with Slovenia at Glasgow’s Hampden Park on Sunday.
Scotland are 1-2-1 in UEFA Group F play, with losses at England and Slovakia leaving them in fifth place in the six-team group. That, plus two dropped points in a home draw with Lithuania, has fueled a sense of urgency among the Tartan Army and there is little remaining room for error if manager Gordon Strachan & Co. are to climb into contention for Russia 2018.
Only the group winner will book automatic passage to next summer’s showcase event, while eight of UEFA’s nine second-place finishers in group play qualify for a two-legged playoff set for November, from which four teams will advance.
Player to watch
Canada – Marco Bustos
The Vancouver Whitecaps youngster has been one of the CanMNT’s bright spots in recent friendlies since the road to Russia reached its dead end. With minutes hard to come by in the Whitecaps first team, will he earn a chance to impress Zambrano in the heart of midfield?
Scotland – Ikechi Anya
A flying winger for English Championship side Derby County, Anya boasts ample speed and a nose for goal that could trouble Canada’s fullbacks.
Goalkeepers (2): Simon Thomas, FK Bodo/Glimt (NOR); Jayson Leutwiler, Shrewsbury Town FC (ENG)
Midfielders (8): Samuel Piette, CD Izarra (ESP); Charlie Trafford, Sandecja Nowy Sącz (POL); Marco Bustos, Vancouver Whitecaps; Fraser Aird, Falkirk FC (SCO); Ben Fisk, FC Edmonton; La’Vere Corbin-Ong, FSV Frankfurt (GER); Adam Straith, FC Edmonton; Scott Arfield, Burnley FC (ENG)
Forwards (3): David Junior Hoilett, Cardiff City FC (ENG); Simeon Jackson, Walsall FC (ENG); Marcus Haber, Dundee FC (SCO)
Goalkeepers (3): Craig Gordon, Celtic (SCO); David Marshall, Hull City (ENG); Allan McGregor, Cardiff City (WAL)
Defenders (7): Christophe Berra, Ipswich Town (ENG); Liam Cooper, Leeds United (ENG); Russell Martin, Norwich City (ENG); Charlie Mulgrew, Blackburn Rovers (ENG); Andrew Robertson, Hull City (ENG); Kieran Tierney, Celtic (SCO); Lee Wallace, Rangers (SCO)
Midfielders (13): Ikechi Anya, Derby County (ENG); Stuart Armstrong, Celtic (SCO); Barry Bannan, Sheffield Wednesday (ENG); Scott Brown, Celtic (SCO); Oliver Burke, RB Leipzig (GER); Tom Cairney, Fulham (ENG); Darren Fletcher, West Bromwich Albion (ENG); James Forrest, Celtic (SCO); Ryan Fraser, Bournemouth (ENG); John McGinn, Hibernian (SCO); James Morrison, West Bromwich Albion (ENG); Matt Ritchie, Newcastle United (ENG); Robert Snodgrass, West Ham United (ENG)
Forwards (5): Steven Fletcher, Sheffield Wednesday (ENG); Leigh Griffiths, Celtic (SCO); Chris Martin, Fulham (ENG); Steven Naismith, Norwich City (ENG); Jordan Rhodes, Sheffield Wednesday (ENG)