The young CF Montreal midfielder Ismaël Koné received an important call on Sunday, he who received confirmation that he will join the Canadian national team during the international break.
At 19, Koné will represent the maple leaf for the first time in his career. The stakes will be enormous, since Canada could obtain its ticket for Qatar, for the next World Cup, which will take place in November and December.
National team head coach John Herdman was also very intrigued by the qualities of the midfielder.
“We will always face the unknown by calling on new players. How will they react to stress, to pressure? But we wanted to try new things, with new faces,” replied John Herdman at a press conference, to a question about the importance of bringing back substantially the same group of players as during previous international breaks.
“We moved away from our comfort zone by calling on the young Ismaël Koné. Personally, I have never seen a player with such a profile in the midfield position since I have held this position. He’s definitely someone who I believe can contribute over the next three games. »
Koné is in his first steps with the main team of CF Montreal, but already he has established himself as one of the regulars in the starting lineup of head coach Wilfried Nancy. He already has one goal and three assists in four Major League Soccer (MLS) games, in addition to netting another goal in the CONCACAF Champions League.
His best game was arguably his most recent game against Atlanta United on Saturday. Not only did he shake the ropes, in addition to setting the table for Djordje Mihailovic’s goal, but he also drew a foul in the opposition’s penalty area, which allowed Romell Quioto to score from the point of penalty.
« The last four or five weeks have been a whirlwind for Ishmael, » added Herdman. He played at many different levels, whether in the CONCACAF Champions League or MLS, in big stadiums, in front of big crowds, in important moments.
« If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about him that’s consistent, it’s his state of mind. During the last weekend, he showed all his resilience, something very important to be part of this team. You can make a mistake, come back stronger and put on a good performance like he did. »
Koné will not be too out of place in his first steps with the Canadian team, since his CF Montreal teammates Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnson will accompany him. Samuel Piette, often used by Herdman, was left out as he is still injured.
A few points from the World Cup
The Canadian men’s soccer squad is close to their ticket to the 2022 World Cup, which will be played in Qatar, but they still need to obtain favorable results to get there.
Unbeaten in 11 games, John Herdman’s men sit atop the CONCACAF qualifying standings with 25 points, four ahead of USA and Mexico. The top three teams at the end of the qualifications will have a place in the biggest soccer tournament in the world, in which Canada has only participated once, in 1986.
Panama (17 points) and Costa Rica (16 points) rank fourth and fifth respectively. Canada will face each of them during this break, March 24 for Costa Rica and March 30 for Panama. Each of these duels will also be played in enemy territory. A home match against Jamaica (March 27) also awaits them.
« It’s probably going to be the toughest schedule, » admitted head coach John Herdman. We will have to go to Costa Rica, in a game without a future for them, in the heat. Then we will return to Canada to face a quality team in Jamaica, who will also play without the burden of having to qualify. Finally we will go to Panama, where we will once again be involved in a one-night stand. It’s what we get up for in the morning. That’s what we want, to be able to play these kinds of matches. »
The absence of the team’s main star, Alphonso Davies, will also add to the difficulty of the challenge facing the Canadians. The Bayern Munich player, in the German first league, is still recovering from myocarditis, a consequence of COVID-19, which he contracted at the start of 2022.