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Are Canada World Cup dark horses?

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Canada is starring in just their second-ever FIFA World Cup in Qatar and their first since 1986 after topping the CONCACAF Qualifying section.

This is not a fluke from the North American side either, they completely dominated their group and left World Cup regulars Mexico stressing to secure a spot at this year’s event. Canada is a squad of upcoming stars with a blend of experience that presents a perfect balance of maturity and youth within the squad.

Atiba Hutchinson captains the side and is very much a veteran leader to what is mostly a young and inexperienced squad, however, he is currently carrying an injury and racing to be ready in time to star at the World Cup.

At the age of 39, Hutchinson is still a vital part of his nation’s setup and was huge in the qualifying stage; the Besiktas midfielder is an excellent ball-winner in the middle of the park and also has an eye for a pass as well as being extremely press resistant. Hutchinson’s ability in possession will be hugely beneficial if he is fit in time to play against top sides such as Belgium and Croatia, who will dominate possession against the Canadians.

In Bodog’s Canada World Cup odds, the minnows of the international stage are huge outsiders at 125/1  to win the competition, but perhaps could they be this year’s dark horses and reach the latter stages – which is not completely out of the realms of possibility as they have a perfect blend of young, ambitious players alongside veterans with a wealth of experience.

Stephen Eustáquio is another huge segment of the Canadian midfield due to his creativity and similarly to Hutchinson, his ability to maintain possession while under pressure from the opposition will be vital. Eustáquio has made a big impact in European football; he is a regular starter for FC Porto in Portugal and is quickly establishing himself as one of the top defensive midfielders playing in European competition.

As well as the duo of experience and technical ability in the middle of the pitch, Canada boast a range of exciting young stars that are key parts of top European sides. The national team setup contains players that start for the likes of Bayern Munich and LOSC Lille, with the Canadian ranks boasting UEFA Champions League stars.

Between the sticks, Canada has a vastly experienced journeyman goalkeeper in the form of Milan Borjan who has spent time in the likes of Argentina, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey throughout his career. Borjan has experienced football at a variety of levels and of many different styles and the World Cup could be the perfect level to culminate his career. Along with Hutchinson, he is a vastly experienced player who can help galvanise the young Canadian squad to achieve something remarkable in their first World Cup in 36 years.

Cyle Larin is a quality experienced forward option who plays alongside an array of young attacking talent; He has played a majority of his career in the Major League Soccer but in recent years he left for Europe to join Besiktas.

In Istanbul, he formed a strong understanding with Hutchinson who regularly assisted Larin and this duo could pop up again in Qatar.

Larin now plays in Belgium for Club Brugge and overall his experience in Europe should help significantly with adapting to the World Cup stage. The intensity and tempo of football in Europe can be likened to the peak level of the World Cup much more than the MLS can.

Canada has an excellent combination of exciting up-and-comers and veterans that have experienced a variety of atmospheres and styles of play – perhaps a run to the knockout stages is not off the cards for the high-flying North Americans.