June 15 – Expect fireworks as Panama and Canada open the Nations League finals in Las Vegas tonight.
Canadian coach John Herdman is expecting a “chaotic” match and a “physical battle” in a game against Panama that can be a little “feisty”.
“Panama have got continuity. Thomas (Christiansen) has done a fantastic job. He is a top coach with a clear plan, they play as one with a clear mindset and a tactical game… they can also be a little feisty.”
“The players have to be ready to step up to the physical battle first. We have to match their intensity and desire to win. Every game in Concacaf is typically a fight first. We’ll come with a clear game plan but it is the mindset we have to get right first.”
Canada go into the match as favourites and are not reporting any injuries within their squad which means the likes of Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, and strikers Lyle Clarin and Jonathon David are all likely to start as Herdman chases the trophy he believes it is their time to collect, despite having had less preparation time than their rivals.
Canada come into the tournament having only had four days in camp compared to the 10 days that his rivals have had to prepare. But Herdman dismisses this as “being what it is” but says the players are returning to camp with “high energy” and “we will use that”.
For Herdman the key will be settling into the game in the first 15-20 minutes. Panama come into the match having played a friendly already.
“It takes time to get into a rhythm and for the players to gel. We have to manage that first part of the game to find our tempo and rhythm and after that there are no excuses and we will show why we are the favourites.”
Panama’s Christiansen (pictured) is well aware of the danger the Canadian present and rates them as being on the same level as traditional regional heavyweights Mexico and the USA.
“Canada have a lot of qualities, they can play a lot of different systems and have players to fill different roles. They are a complicated team in terms of strategy and their ability to change their systems, it is why they are dangerous. They also have (the advantage of) players who play in different parts of the world,” said Christiansen.
“We have our own strategy specifically for facing Canada and after that we have to think about our second game.”
The strategy for the Canadian game will not include either of Panama’s first choice strikers who are both serving disciplinary bans, Jose Fajardo for a sending off, and Alberto Quintero for two yellow cards.
“We knew we couldn’t count on them for the first game but they will be available for the second,” said Christiansen.
“Our dream is certainly to make it to the final and lift a trophy but we are talking about (competing against) three teams who were in the World Cup, that are powers in Concacaf. We are not less important and we can compete with them, we showed that in the ocatagonal (the last round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying). Everything is open and we will try to win.”
Over the last 18 months Christiansen has worked to change their system of play, even with key players being in Spain. “This is an important match and very exciting for us to play Canada. We want to win, to do our best and to make our people happy.”
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