John Herdman, the coach of the two genres who wants to surprise again with Canada

John Herdman, the coach of the two genres who wants to surprise again with Canada

John Herdman led both Canada’s women’s and men’s national teams to the World Cup, the first in history to do so. In Qatar with the various Larin, David and Alphonso Davies he will be a loose cannon.

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There is an English coach who at the World Cup in Qatar will be followed by the entire population of his country and who, whatever result the national team obtains, will be forever thanked and certainly reconfirmed as the head of the team. We are not talking about Southgate, increasingly frowned upon and questioned in England, but about John Herdman, who brought Canada back to the World Cup after 36 years of absence.

Herdman was born in Consett, in the north of England and graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in sports science. He plays football in amateur leagues, but he was practically born a coach. He starts doing this in the Southampton youth academy when he is just a few years older than the players he coaches and while some of them are students as he is their PE teacher. However, he soon tires of a part-time involvement and the few opportunities that English football gives him and looks for a bigger project that involves him more, choosing to go in New Zealand.

John Herdman in New Zealand, when he was the women's national team coach between 2006 and 2011

John Herdman in New Zealand, when he was the women’s national team coach between 2006 and 2011

As soon as he arrives he is immediately co-opted by the Federation which entrusts him after three years the women’s national team, led from 2006 to 2011. Herdman literally creates the New Zealand national football team, making it reach a good international level in a few years. Before him, New Zealand had never participated in the Olympic Games or the World Cup. With him on the bench, he took part in two World Cups and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, landing in a terrible group but giving a hard time to two teams like Norway and Japan, for then succumb 4-0 to the United States at the end of the gold medal.

His way of playing football and above all of managing every aspect of the team and the organization is immediately noticed by Canadian managers, who they have called him to lead the women’s national team since 2011. The human material in Canada is very different than in New Zealand and Herdman wins straight away. At the 2011 Pan American Games Canada beat Brazil on penalties. The next two big events are the two Olympics in London and Rio de Janiero, where he manages to get two bronzes, by first winning a final against France (after the best game in the history of women’s soccer: USA-Canada, Olympic semifinal, 4-3 for the Americans who win with a goal from Alexandra Morgan in the 123rd minute of extra time) and then a another in Brazil against the landlords.

Herdman coach of the Canadian women's national team

Herdman coach of the Canadian women’s national team

This brings us to what we are experiencing today. On January 8, 2018, in a completely unexpected way for the practice of world football, but with an absolutely brilliant vision for those who have seen how John Herdman thinks and puts football into practice, from the Canada women’s national team (the development of his work last year led to Olympic gold) switch to the male one, amazing all those who did not know this very good coach. The federation’s courage matches the courage of Herdman, who could return to his homeland and coach the England women’s national team, taking advantage of the growth of the movement that this summer led to the victory of the European Championships.

Herdman in charge of Canada who has led as coach since 2018 and who led to the world finals in Qatar

Herdman in charge of Canada who has led as coach since 2018 and who led to the world finals in Qatar

The Canadian Federation gave him not only the national team but above all the future of football in the country. Herdman is also National Director of all national teams ages 14 and up. In fact, what Herdman had to do was build a more than acceptable Canadian national team for the big home World Cup (to be organized with the USA and Mexico) in 2026. But Herdman didn’t wait all this time and forged ahead.

He dragged the national team from 72nd to 40th place in the FIFA Rankings, the biggest leap forward of 2021. But that’s not all, because in February 2022 Canada was in 33rd position. What had happened to get so high? He first swept the first qualifying round at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, winning all matches against Suriname, Bermuda, Aruba and the Cayman Islands, then in the final round made up of 8 teams from the North and Central American area, he played 14 matches, with 8 wins, 2 draws and only 2 defeats. Canada drew in the USA 1-1, drew in Mexico, at the Estadio Atzeca, dominating for some stretches of the match, at home they beat Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States, the other three teams that will participate in Qatar 2022.

The joy of Canadian players as they celebrate qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar 2022

The joy of Canadian players as they celebrate qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar 2022

They finished the group in first place in the table. Together with this he has improved and made players desired by the big European teams like Cyle Larin, who now plays at Club Brugge, Jonathan David, now at Lille and giving centrality and enhancing the great talent and immense strength of Alphonso Davies, an amazing full back of Bayern Munich who is an all-round player in the national team capable of splitting any game.

All this led Canada at the World Cup, after only appearing in 1986, with 69% of victories in 45 games, and made John Herdman the first coach in history to have led both a women’s and men’s national team to the most important international football competition. When Canada was drawn with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, many thought that the history of the coach of the two genders was very good but that it would end without great rings already in the initial round. What Herdman has instilled in his boys is a phrase that has become a kind of mantra: “Ask for nothing, expect nothing, but do everything to win”. Nothing can be denied to a team that follows these dictates and with a coach like this.

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