Canada Soccer: Stephen Eustaquio, the face of the renewal imagined by Mauro Biello

Mauro Biello considered that he had to make important decisions to clarify things regarding the Canadian men’s team, unrecognizable since its participation in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. At the beginning of the week, when announcing the calls for the crucial match that awaits his men this Saturday against Trinidad and Tobago, he spoke of a “cultural reset.” An identity reset, in a way.

On his guest list, some absentees who had the habit of taking up a lot of space. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan, defender Steven Vitória and midfielder Junior Hoilett are no longer part of the plans. In a video posted on the Reds’ new X account, we see Biello paying tribute to these fallen veterans and asking his young troops to dare to fill the void left by his departure.

The Montreal coach wanted to see new leaders emerge.

On Friday, Biello made a symbolic gesture, certainly, but no less significant by confirming that Stephen Eustaquio would wear the captain’s armband for the match that could allow Canada to confirm its participation in the Copa América in early summer.

“I had been in contact with Steph and some of our other leaders before this camp started,” Biello said. Remotely, we had conversations about the best ways to improve this team. From there, my thoughts began to clear up. I thought Steph would be a good candidate for this position and informed her of my decision at the beginning of camp. He meets all my criteria and I know he is highly respected within the group. »

A spectacular conductor in the midfield, Eustaquio is neither the most extravagant nor the most mercurial of the Canadian team’s tenors. But from both his play and his personality comes a serenity that Biello appreciates and that he hopes will be contagious as he faces the important challenge that awaits his troops.

“I’m going to let my personality do the work,” said the young man from Ontario. I’m just going to be myself and that’s why I think everything should be fine. »

Earlier this week, Alphonso Davies, the Maple Leaf’s flagship player, told TSN that he had informed his coach of his interest in the captain’s title, which had been reserved exclusively for Borjan since his return from Qatar. Cyle Larin, top scorer in the history of the national team, Samuel Piette, the most called-up active player (67 times) or star striker Jonathan David could also have been considered.

Biello’s choice fell on Eustaquio, a 27-year-old midfielder who plays for FC Porto in the Portuguese first division. He has participated in 34 matches since the beginning of his career with the Canadian national team. He received his first call-up in 2019, on the eve of his 23rd birthday.

“I announced it to the rest of the team on the field because that’s where Steph is at her best. This is where he sets an example for everyone. The boys applauded him, they all appreciate him. But at the same time, I had conversations with several of our key players who will also have to take up more space in the rest of our project. »

Break with the past

Biello, who leads the Canadian team on an interim basis, clarified that his choice only applies to Saturday’s game. The rest of the story depends in part on the result his men manage to achieve against the 96th team in the world.

A defeat would be catastrophic for the preparation of one of the three hosting teams for the 2026 World Cup. It would also almost certainly seal the fate of the 51-year-old tactician, who succeeded John Herdman after his departure to MLS last August. .

Canada has already lost the opportunity to qualify for the Copa América, a competition that normally pits ten South American countries against each other, but which expanded its field in 2024 to allow six CONCACAF teams to participate. Last November, he stupidly let the honors of a home-and-home series against Jamaica slip away in front of his fans in Toronto.

It was as a result of this collapse that Biello considered it necessary to cut the cord with certain veterans who were part of the furniture. Time will tell if the former Impact driver moved his pawns too late.

“It opened our eyes, that’s for sure,” Eustaquio confesses. I think we thought we had them, especially after a first half in which everything had gone well for us. But, to be honest, they showed that they were hungrier than us, that they wanted this qualification more. We have to rediscover this humility, this desire to win and return to the basics that allowed us to reach the World Cup. We always had the desire to be the best and I think we lost that in our last game. »

“The year 2023 has not been easy,” admitted Biello. A new coaching staff had to be formed. When I arrived, I wanted to be loyal to the guys who got us to this stage. It didn’t work. I see the future as a new beginning and I believe that now we must detach ourselves from the past. We had a great adventure. It’s a new one that’s starting. »

To shape the new face of his team, Biello called up four CF Montreal players and a total of six Quebecers.

By beating Trinidad and Tobago, Canada would automatically enter Group A of the Copa América, where Argentina, Peru and Chile are already waiting. They would begin their tournament against the current world champions on June 20.

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