Cavallini goal gives Canadian men 2-2 tie with Bahrain in World Cup warmup

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Canada, missing some of its top talent, tied Bahrain 2-2 on Lucas Cavallini’s 81st-minute goal in a World Cup warmup match Friday.

After Bahrain pulled ahead in the 65th minute from the penalty spot, it paid for failing to clear the ball. Substitute Zachary Brault-Guillard sent in a low cross that bounced off Cavallini’s leg and a defender, deflecting into the Bahrain goal.

The goal was eventually ruled an own goal, rather than No. 18 for the Vancouver Whitecap striker, who did seem to do a little dance to get his leg onto the ball. But it then hit the defender next to him.

The Canadians got a taste of the conditions that await them in Qatar. It was 29 degrees Celsius at kickoff (6:30 p.m. local time) at Al-Khalifa Stadium.

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The Canadian men’s national team tied Bahrain 2-2 in a friendly match with the FIFA World Cup on the horizon.

Canada, ranked 41st in the world compared to No. 85 for Bahrain, controlled most of the play and led early but paid for a mistake in a first half that ended tied 1-1. Bahrain showed itself to be a threat on the counter-attack.

Bahrain went ahead 20 minutes into the second half on an Abdulla Yusuf penalty after Alistair Johnston clipped Mohamed Marhoon on the edge of the penalty box. Canadian ‘keeper Dayne St. Clair got a hand to the penalty but couldn’t stop it

Bahrain showed a physical side early with Mark-Anthony Kaye felled in a tough tackle.

Ismael Kone opened the scoring in the sixth minute with his first goal for Canada, in his fourth appearance. Kamal Miller, with a long ball from deep in Canada territory, found his CF Montreal teammate, who used a deft first touch to race past a defender and steam toward goal without interference, beating Bahrain ‘keeper Ebrahim Lutfalla with a high shot.

A Cavallini tap-in goal in the 12th minute, off a seeing-eye pass from Jonathan Osorio, was flagged offside.

Bahrain answered in the 14th minute against the run of play through Mahdi Haumaidan. After Kaye failed to corral a pass at the back, Yusuf beat Joel Waterman and found Haumaidan in the penalty box. His quick shot eluded a sliding Johnston and St. Clair, who got his right hand to the ball but could not keep it out.

Yusuf’s deflected shot hit the goalpost in the 16th minute after another Canadian turnover. And Yusuf, who plays his club football for Indonesia’s Persija Jakarta, forced a diving save from St. Clair with a hard shot in the 32nd minute.

The two teams each put two shots on target in the first half with the Canadians having 62 per cent possession.

Kone should have had a second goal in the 50th minute but his header flashed wide of an empty goal after a fine cross by Raheem Edwards, who beat his man to deliver it. Richie Laryea found Osorio at the far post minutes later but a Bahrain defender prevented a shot.

St. Clair had no problem palming away an on-target free kick from Marhoon in the 62nd minute but looked shaky on the ensuing corner.

Canada will announce its World Cup roster on Sunday with coach John Herdman, who used 39 players in qualifying, settling on a final 26. Some decisions have already been made for him with goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and defender Scott Kennedy unavailable through injury.

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Defender Doneil Henry was to captain Canada on Friday, marking his second time as skipper, but was a late scratch due to an injury in warmup. Waterman, making his Canada debut, started in his place with Samuel Piette leading the team out.

Herdman did not have his full squad for the Bahrain game, with almost all of his European-based players still in action with their clubs. They will be released after weekend matches with those selected to the World Cup roster heading to Doha.

Canada without key contributors

The Canadian men will play one last match, against No. 24 Japan, in Dubai next Thursday in advance of their World Cup opener against No. 2 Belgium on Nov. 23.

For the Bahrain camp and match, Herdman was relying on MLS talent along with midfielder Liam Fraser who plays in Belgium for KMSK Deinze. Eighteen of the 21 players in camp were from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (including Toronto winger Jacob Shaffelburg on loan to Nashville SC).

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TFC and Vancouver players in camp had not seen game action since the Oct. 9 MLS regular-season finale. Montreal exited the playoffs Oct. 23 in a 3-1 loss to New York City FC in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

For some, the hiatus was even longer. Prior to Friday, Osorio had played just 18 minutes since Aug. 20 due to post-concussion syndrome. He earned his 56th cap for Canada on Friday and looked sharp, playing the full match.

Milestone for Herdman, Johnston

The Bahrain game was also a milestone for both Herdman and Johnston.

Herdman marked his 46th international “A” match in charge of the Canadian men, moving him into second place on the all-time list past Stephen Hart with a record of (31-10-5). Bob Lenarduzzi holds the record at 62.

Johnston played in his 27th consecutive match for Canada, tying the record held by former captain Bruce Wilson. The 24-year-old from Aurora, Ont., made his debut against Bermuda in March 2021 in Canada’s opening World Cup qualifying game and has been a fixture ever since.

Johnston, who earned his 29th cap Friday, has not missed a Canada outing since a game in Aruba in June 2021.

St. Clair, earning just his second cap, started in goal behind a back three of Waterman, Johnston and Miller and a midfield of Laryea, Samuel Piette, Kaye and Edwards with Osorio and Kone playing behind Cavallini.

The Canadian starting 11 had a combined cap count of 293, led by Piette (65) and, Osorio (56).

Fraser, Brault-Guillard, Ayo Akinola, Jayden Nelson, Shaffelburg and Lukas MacNaughton, making his Canadian debut, came on in the second half. Miller, who seemed to be favouring a leg, came off in the 71st minute.

For Akinola, it was a first appearance for Canada since injuring his knee against the U.S. in July 2021 at the Gold Cup.

Soccer North airs every Friday on CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports YouTube channel. During the World Cup, the show will air live following all of Canada’s games for as long it remains in the tournament.

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