With a home World Cup looming in 2026, Canada knows it has to test itself versus elite opposition from outside CONCACAF. On Friday, the Canadian men were shown that such lessons can be painful.
Ao Tanaka scored twice as Japan, showing its class, overwhelmed Canada 4-1 in a soccer friendly.
The Japanese, the top-ranked team in Asia at No. 19, were well-organized and led 3-0 at the break after pouncing on mistakes by No. 44 Canada. The Canadians had no answers for the Samurai Blue’s speed and discipline.
“For us, obviously there’s a lot of learnings from this game. There’s things we need to improve,” interim Canada coach Mauro Biello said.
“The score didn’t reflect the performance,” he added.
Not everyone would agree. It was a comprehensive Japan victory.
Keito Nakamura also scored before a lively crowd of some 32,000 at the Denka Big Swan Stadium. Japan, extending its victory streak to five matches, also benefited from an Alphonso Davies own goal.
Junior Hoilett scored a tap-in consolation goal in the 89th minute after Japan ‘keeper Keisuke Osako could not corral a Jonathan David low cross. It was Hoilett’s 16th goal in 60 Canada appearances.
Down 1-0, Canada had an opportunity to pull even in the 22nd minute only to see Osako stop David’s penalty kick. David sent his shot down the middle of the goal and a diving Osako acrobatically got a foot to it.
Japan outshot Canada 19-6 (8-3 in shots on target).
The match was Canada’s first under Biello, a former assistant coach who was put in charge after John Herdman left to take over Toronto FC.
Canada had a nightmarish start, conceding in the second minute. Japan pressed from the get-go and Canada, after a turnover by Davies, failed four times to clear its penalty box. The ball went to Tanaka and the Fortuna Duesseldorf midfielder’s shot beat Milan Borjan.
Japan doubled the lead in the 39th minute after Canada’s defense was carved open. While Takuma Asano’s low, raking cross was just out of the reach of Takumi Minamino, the ball bounced off Davies’ shin, hit Borjan and bounced into the goal. Davies was trying to shield the ball from a waiting Junya Ito.
Three minutes later, Alistair Johnston lost the ball in midfield and Canada was swiftly punished as Nakamura, one pass later, turned and beat Borjan with a fine shot to make it 3-0.
Japan piled on the pain in the 49th minute with Tanaka, freed by a clever ball over the defense from Ito, hammering a shot past Borjan.
Friday’s game was the Canadian men’s lone warm-up for a pair of crucial November CONCACAF Nations League matches that serve as Copa America qualifiers.
Canada sat out the FIFA September international window, with Canada Soccer pointing to “financial constraints” and its “inability to confirm an additional high-quality opponent.”
Noting the team’s recent inactivity, Biello cited a “lack of cohesion.” Canada last played July 9, losing a penalty shootout to the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal.
“It’s not one [training] session and a half that’s going to bring back cohesion,” he said.