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Opinion | John Herdman isn’t certain he’ll coach Canada at FIFA World Cup 2026

DOHA, Qatar—It is a hell of a question, given everything: will John Herdman be Canada’s coach in 2026? The men’s program was a box of broken toys when he moved over from the women’s side, and maybe it’s easy to forget that now that they’re here, at the World Cup, playing one more match before going home. Maybe we forget.

But in advance of Canada’s final Group F matchup with Morocco, Herdman was asked the question: will you be Canada’s coach in 2026? And it was clear that he doesn’t know the answer.

“I will be tomorrow,” Herdman said. “I will be excited tomorrow. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, 11 years of work in this country. You know I’ve been pioneering for a long period of time.

“And you’ll not find anyone as passionate as I am about this program or about these players or about the staff. You’ll not find anyone as passionate, who wants to take the country to that next level. And you’ll not meet anyone that’s experienced this moment with this team. So the learnings that I’ll take from this, (I’ll) take into the next one.

“In 2015 we finished sixth place in the women’s (World Cup); in 2016 we go (Canada’s first) back-to-back (Olympic) podiums in over a century. Three years later, they take a gold medal. We came to this World Cup, (Belgian bench coach) Thierry Henry told me this team played them off the park. I’ll take that because if that’s our foundation, we got a great four years ahead, and I can’t wait to get after it.”

He didn’t say he would definitely be the coach, though; he said he was excited to be the coach, and with one match still left here, what else could he say? Herdman was asked what came next for him, and he said, “Tomorrow.”

“I’ve tried to stay in this moment the whole time. I’ve worked all my life to get here … You know, I’ve done 11 years in this country. 11 great years. What a great time. Love the country. Love the people. And excited for 2026.”

His players seem onside. Steven Vitória, sitting to Herdman’s left, offered an unsolicited outpouring of support which included the words, “I don’t want to hear any questions about our coach, about our future.”

“From the first day he came he said we’re gonna make it to the World Cup, you know?” said veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan after the Croatia match. “And he made us believe. We believed it. You know, he’s amazing coach, amazing therapist, amazing brother, amazing father, amazing friend. He’s everything to us, you know? I’ve been with him for four years, and I feel like I’ve been with that guy for a lifetime.

“And he’s just amazing. He brings so much confidence, so much positive energy, which is unbelievable. I’ve been with the program for 12 years. I don’t think we had the coach with that much energy and positivity … it’s unbelievable: he brings the best out of us.”

So why the question? It’s possible Herdman gets tabbed for a job in England, though he has never offered a public desire to go back: he likes, as he says, to pioneer. But it could happen. And this is Canada Soccer, a tepid pot of incompetence, and what might they do?

The Croatia match is where Herdman left himself open for the most criticism: the We’re Off To Eff Croatia exhortation on live TV after the Belgium loss, and after he told his team the same thing in the huddle, which became a major story and which the Croatians relished after their win; the faith in midfielders Stephen Eustaquio and Atiba Hutchinson when it was clear Eustaquio’s hamstring was a problem, and Hutchinson’s legs were dead, which more or less decided the match; not going with more midfielders in that game; and least of all, not shaking the Croatian coach’s hand.

(Herdman more or less said Croatian coach Zlatko Dalić ran away down the touchline to celebrate with his players; Herdman then shook hands with refs and players for about 10 minutes, but Dalić seemed to be determined to force Herdman to come and shake his hand in the midst of his ebullient players. Herdman didn’t. A lesson.)

And allowing Alphonso Davies to take the penalty early in the Belgium game showed a little too much deference to the players, as did perhaps the decision to let Hutchinson stay in the Croatia match, and Eustaquio too. Those are a little different: he didn’t have comparable options.

But Davies shouldn’t taken that penalty, and that is a big part of the difference between playing Morocco with a chance to advance, and playing Morocco and knowing when you fly home.

But it’s Herdman’s first men’s World Cup, and his players’s first too. We should be unequivocal here: There is no reason to lose Herdman unless he decided to accept an offer somewhere else. Some people with deep ties to Canadian soccer have wondered whether Canada Soccer — which is still seen to be directed, even by proxy, by CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani — will retain Herdman. They note that iconic manager Carlo Ancelotti lives in West Vancouver after marrying a Canadian woman, and he and Montagliani have ties.

We’ll see how Morocco goes: if Eustaquio’s hamstring isn’t ready, then it will be a much tougher task. Morocco is playing for something more.

But Herdman changed football in Canada. Women’s football first, and now the men.

“We came here to connect the country, unite a country,” Herdman said. “And people are hurt because we’re going home early. Like, people are really hurt. The players are hurt; the staff are hurt. We’ve worked bloody hard. I know people are hurting back home. Like, it’s not easy, because you want to be part of this journey.

“But again, it’s those kids in those schools that will keep believing that Canada is a football country, because they’ve seen that Belgium game, they’ve seen Davies score against Croatia, and they know we are — I nearly said it — we’re a football country. We’re there. And you can’t deny them. No one can. And we’re going to push tomorrow to keep proving that.

“And on the men’s and women’s. It’s just been a gift to work with both.”

He got emotional at the end there; maybe it was just the moment. On Thursday, John Herdman will coach Canada at the World Cup. Then we’ll see what’s next.


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