Young CF Montreal midfielder Ismaël Koné received an important phone call on Sunday, confirming that he will join the Canadian national team during the international match.
At the age of 19, Koné will represent the maple leaf for the first time in his career. The stakes will be huge as Canada could secure its ticket to Qatar for the next World Cup, which will take place in November and December.
National coach John Herdman was also very intrigued by the qualities of the midfielder.
“We will always face the unknown by attracting new players. How will they react to stress, to pressure? But we wanted to try new things, with new faces,” John Herdman replied at a press conference when asked about the importance of bringing back almost the same group of players as during previous international breaks.
“We have stepped out of our comfort zone by calling on the young Ismaël Koné. Personally, I have never seen a player with such a profile in midfield since I took this position. He is definitely someone who I think can contribute in the next three games.”
Koné is on his first steps with the CF Montreal main team, but he has already established himself as one of the regulars in head coach Wilfried Nancy’s base. He has already scored one goal and three assists in four Major League Soccer (MLS) games, as well as another goal in the CONCACAF Champions League.
His best game was arguably his most recent game against Atlanta United on Saturday. Not only did he shake the ropes, in addition to setting the table in front of Djordje Mihailovic’s goal, he also fouled the opposing team’s penalty area, which allowed Romell Quioto to score from the penalty spot.
“The past four or five weeks have been a whirlwind for Ishmael,” Herdman added. He played at many different levels, whether in the CONCACAF Champions League or MLS, in big stadiums, in front of big crowds, at key moments.
“If there’s one thing I notice about him that’s consistent, it’s his state of mind. During the last weekend he showed all his resilience, something very important to be part of this team. You can make a mistake, come back stronger and put in a good performance like he did.”
Koné will not look out of place in his first steps with the Canadian team as his CF Montreal teammates Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnson will join him. Samuel Piette, often used by Herdman, was locked out because he is still injured.
A few points from the World Cup
Canada’s men’s soccer team is close to their ticket to the 2022 World Cup, which will be played in Qatar, but they have yet to achieve favorable results to get there.
Unbeaten in 11 games, John Herdman’s men top the CONCACAF qualifying standings with 25 points, four ahead of the US and Mexico. The top three teams at the end of the qualifiers have a place in the largest football tournament in the world, in which Canada participated only once, in 1986.
Panama (17 points) and Costa Rica (16 points) are in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Canada will face each of them during this break, March 24 for Costa Rica and March 30 for Panama. Each of these duels is also played in enemy territory. They also have a home game against Jamaica (March 27) waiting for them.
“It’s probably going to be the toughest program,” admitted head coach John Herdman. We will have to go to Costa Rica, in a game with no future for them, in the heat. We will then return to Canada to face a quality team in Jamaica, who will also play without us having to qualify. Finally, we will go to Panama where we will again be involved in a one-night stand. That’s what we get up for in the morning. That’s what we want, to be able to play these kinds of games.”
The absence of the team’s main star, Alphonso Davies, will also add to the difficulty of the challenge facing the Canadians. The Bayern Munich player, in the German first division, is still recovering from myocarditis, a result of COVID-19, which he contracted in early 2022.