Canada will face Belgium, Morocco and Croatia in Group F at the first World Cup group stage in Qatar in November.
Canada was the last ball taken in the draw for the tournament, which runs from November 21 to December 18.
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While there may be tougher destinations – Spain and Germany were drawn in Group E – it’s a tough group for the No. 38-ranked Canadian men.
Star-studded Belgium rose to the top spot in the FIFA World Rankings in September 2018 and stayed there until this week when they were overtaken by Brazil.
No.16 Croatia were runners-up to France at the 2018 World Cup. This time around they won Group H of the European qualifiers with a 7-1-2 record, finishing ahead of Russia , Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta while beating the opponent 21-4.
No.24 Morocco went unbeaten in African qualifiers, securing their place at the World Cup with a 5-2 aggregate win over DR Congo after going 6-0-0 in their original group.
The Canadians drew first-round opponents France, Hungary and the Soviet Union in their only other visit to the soccer showcase — Mexico ’86. Canada lost all three games and were outscored 5-0.
Friday’s draw placed Canada in Pot 4, which featured the lowest-ranked qualified teams. Draw rules meant that the Canadians could not be placed in a group with fellow CONCACAF qualifiers Mexico and the United States.
The teams are divided into eight groups of four for the opening phase. Each team plays the others in its group once, with the top two qualifying for the knockout stage.
- November 23: against Belgium
- November 27: against Croatia
- December 1: against Morocco
The draw took place at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center with actor Idris Elba and broadcaster Reshmin Chowdhury as hosts.
“Wow, what an emotion it is to be here in front of you,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “Now it’s getting serious.
“This World Cup will simply be the best World Cup ever. The greatest show on earth,” he added.
Referring to “some turbulence in the world”, Infantino called for the World Cup to bring people together “since we know that hundreds of millions of people are watching this draw and many world leaders are also watching.
“Our call and the call of the global football community to everyone, to all leaders and to all people of the world is to stop conflicts and wars. Please engage in the dialogue. Please engage in peace. Because we want it to be the World Cup of unity and the World Cup of peace.”
Friday’s draw included a global selection of soccer royalty with Cafu (Brazil), Lothar Matthaus (Germany), Adel Ahmed MalAllah (Qatar), Ali Daei (Iran), Bora Milutinovic (Serbia/Mexico), Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria), Rabah Madjer (Algeria) and Tim Cahill (Australia) attend.
Former United States international Carli Lloyd and former England player Jermaine Jenas also took part.
FIFA also unveiled La’eeb as the tournament’s official mascot. La’eeb, described as “adventurous, fun and curious”, is an Arabic word meaning super-skilled player.
Canada clinched their first World Cup appearance in 36 years with a 4-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto, but lost to Panama 1-0 on Wednesday in the final game of their qualifying campaign.
The Canadians finished atop the CONCACAF standings with an 8-2-4 record, but fell five places in Thursday’s FIFA Men’s World Ranking, falling from their record of No. 33.
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