Copa America play-in: Canada battle for status against a rebuilding Trinidad and Tobago

March 22 – Having thrown away their quarter final lead against Jamaica and then losing on penalties, Canada missed out on the CNL final four and now have a single match play-in against Trinidad and Tobago for qualification to the Copa America 2024.

The winner will qualify for group A of the Copa America alongside Chile, Peru and reigning Fifa World Cup champions Argentina.

Canada have been going through turmoil behind the scenes with players complaining they aren’t paid enough and the stepping down of former coach John Herdman who took over in 2018, took them to the World Cup and the Nations League final four last year, but ended his term after a disappointing 2023 Gold Cup that saw them knocked out in the quarter finals by the USA on penalties.

Their transition from being an also-ran on the international stage to being an elite Concacaf nation and competing on the world stage has been one of the feel-good stories of international football.

But with internal federation chaos, a lack of commercial support for the team within Canada, and a group of players greedy for more money, the feel-good story is losing its silver lining.

The Canadians have named a squad with their brightest stars for the play-in match including Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies (pictured).

There are 10 players in the squad with less than 10 caps. Only one player (31-year-old midfielder Jonathan Osorio of Toronto FC) is over the age of 30. Six are 23 or younger.

Interim head coach Mauro Biello is overseeing what he calls a “cultural reset” and playing a weak looking Trinidad and Tobago is a good place to start.

A win is pretty much non-negotiable for Canada. A loss will need to trigger more than a cultural reset.

No-one is expecting Canada to lose but they have shown an ability to fashion losses out of winning positions.

Trinidad will be hoping that Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, will be one of those days.

Trinidad are no strangers to play-in qualifiers, having made it to the 2023 Gold Cup last June through the preliminary qualifiers but then went on to be hammered by the US 6-0 and Jamaica 4-1, before overcoming St Kitts and Nevis 3-0.

They will have to step up a big level if they are to challenge Canada who have called in all their overseas stars.

Coach Angus Eve has picked a squad that draws 11 players from domestic clubs and 12 from overseas. The problem for Eve is that not all the overseas clubs are playing in the top tiers of their national leagues.

Beating Canada would be a major achievement.

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