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Opinion | Alphonso Davies defends decision to take penalty; embraces FIFA World Cup 2022 stage


UMM SALAL ALI, Qatar—Alphonso Davies doesn’t dwell on much, as a rule, but sometimes life makes that choice for him. He has been a central figure at Canada’s World Cup — their only goal-scorer, and the guy who missed the next best chance — while avoiding the international and independent press all tournament long. Once he spoke, we saw a young man who was both ready for this moment and still growing into it.

“Every time I stepped on a pitch, I tried to give my all for this country,” he said.

That was clearly true. The 22-year-old Davies is the best men’s player we have ever produced, and he has room to climb: the Bundesliga is a big five league, and he already has a Champions League title to his credit, but surely the Premier League or some other lofty destination awaits.

And the 2026 World Cup, too. While Davies has already affixed himself into the Canadian soccer firmament, there is room to grow there, too. In this tournament Davies scored Canada’s first goal — a brilliant run for a decisive header on a perfect ball from Tajon Buchanan. That is history. He talked about how much he enjoyed celebrating with his teammates, even if Liam Miller head-butted him. He shared the moment with his parents.

“You know, growing up, they didn’t have the opportunity to see me play as a kid (after he moved from Edmonton to Vancouver at age 14), and me being on one of the biggest stages in the world, it’s truly amazing for them to be in the crowd, to see their son play in the World Cup, see their son score in the World Cup.

“After the first game, you know they told me how proud they are of me. And when I when I scored a goal my mom teared up a little bit, seeing her son, coming from a refugee camp, coming to Canada, and being able to score on the world’s biggest stage. I’m sure they are proud of me. My parents are people of few words you know, they don’t say too much but, it really showed on their face.”

And Davies also decided to take what turned into a critical penalty in the Belgium match, despite having very limited penalty experience in his career, and he flubbed it badly against one of the best goaltenders in the world.

That miss wasn’t Canada’s only chance, in a match where they attempted 16 shots within the box alone. But it was their best chance, and missing out on a result against Belgium was devastating because Canada’s midfield imploded against Croatia, which might have the best midfield in the world.

No, Belgium was the moment, and Davies had only attempted five penalties ever with Bayern Munich and Canada.

“Yeah, I made a decision because I felt confident at the moment,” said Davies. “I felt confident in my abilities to take the penalty. I have faith in myself, and my teammates have faith in me, so I stepped up to the plate. You pick a direction. Fifty-fifty you put it in the net. It was one of those ones I tend not to lose sleep over. I kept my head up and I kept playing.”

Davies was asked if he replayed it in his head when he went to bed. He said, some. But not much. It was the gift and the much smaller curse of Alphonso Davies. Jonathan David should have taken that penalty, but Davies is Davies because he believes in himself, because he keeps churning forward. He is a star.

But again, there remains room to grow. Davies had moments of brilliance but fell far short of dominance. He has not really been at the heart of this team’s leadership core: he was the guy whose agent went and cut a side deal for proceeds from Davies’s Canada jersey sales, and was not said to be a leader in Canada’s still-unfinished negotiations over their World Cup pay. He isn’t a leader, yet. He might never be, and that would be OK. He mentioned how grateful he was for the leadership of veterans Atiba Hutchinson, Milan Borjan, and Steven Vitória on the way here.

“For me, whether I am the captain open or not, I’m going to bring knowledge to my teammates, try to help them as much as possible on and off the pitch,” said Davies. “For me, I don’t need an armband to be a leader, to show my leadership, and I can show it in many different ways.

“I’m having fun. You dream about this … for me I always trying to be myself, try to be myself each and every day. You know, how you see me is how I am.”

We see him how he is: it’s interesting to wonder what he could be: a Davies with four more years of experience, four more years of growth, who is more fully welded to his Canadian teammates while taking on the right responsibilities. His journey to get here was truly incredible. It’s up to Alphonso Davies where he takes it from here.

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