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Canada drops in rankings, can expect tougher grouping in Friday’s World Cup draw

It’s about to get very real for the Canadian men’s soccer team. 

Friday’s draw in Doha will determine Canada’s opening-round opponents for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which runs from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18 in Qatar. 

Canada clinched its first World Cup berth since 1986 (it’s only previous tournament appearance) following a 4-0 victory over Jamaica in Toronto on Sunday. The Reds closed out their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 loss in Panama on Wednesday, a result that still allowed them to finish in first place in CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. 

But while they concluded atop their region, Canada dropped five spots in the world rankings released Thursday, from No. 33 to No. 38. That means Canada is grouped with the lowest-ranked teams for the draw, which increases the likelihood of facing two of the top 10 teams in the world in their opening stage.

Canadian coach John Herdman, however, didn’t seem too concerned with the outcome of the draw, saying Canada’s performance means not too many nations will be eager to face Canada in Qatar. 

“When you look at the campaign, when you look at 20 matches, and a team that has finished on top of Mexico and USA, I think it has to turn heads,” Herdman told reporters after the loss in Panama. 

The 32 World Cup teams have been divided into four pots based on the latest FIFA world rankings that were released on Thursday.

The draw on Friday will divide the 32 teams into eight first-round groups at the World Cup.

Pot 1 consists of the hosts Qatar and the top seven ranked teams. Pot 2 contains the eight teams ranked 9-16, and teams ranked 17-24 are in Pot 3. Pot 4 has the five lowest-ranked teams — which includes Canada — along with three placeholders for the two intercontinental playoff winners and the European playoff winner.

A slight monkey wrench has been thrown into the proceedings, as three nations have yet to qualify for the World Cup.  Costa Rica faces New Zealand on June 13 or 14 in the CONCACAF-Oceania playoff, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup. Australia meets the United Arab Emirates on June 7 to determine the Asian playoff winner who will face South American qualifier Peru later in the month, with the winner of that intercontinental playoff also qualifying for Qatar.

Scotland hosts Ukraine in early June (the game was originally slated for last week but was postponed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) for the right to play Wales in Cardiff later in the month. The winner of the European playoff will also clinch a World Cup berth. 

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