As far as first games in the head coach’s chair go, Friday was brutal.
In Mauro Biello’s first game in interim charge of the Canadian men’s national team, Canada fell behind after 76 seconds and ultimately lost 4-1 to an impressive and high-energy Japan in Niigata.
Related read: Canada self-destruct, haunted by defensive frailties and penalty demons again in Japan thrashing
Talking to media after the game, Biello opined that “the scoreline didn’t reflect the performance.”
If we’re being honest, the only way that’s really true is that Japan could have won by more.
The Samurai Blue showed exactly how they’ve managed to beat Germany twice and Spain in the last 12 months, coming flying out of the blocks and swarming all over Biello’s team right from the first whistle. It’s apt that the game was played on Friday the 13th because defensively, it was a horror show.
Canada’s kamikaze defending certainly didn’t help, either. Inside the first minute, the Canadians looked terrified of their opponents, lost the ball multiple times, failed to clear their lines multiple times, and conceded.
“They scored 90 seconds into the game, we couldn’t clear the ball,” admitted Biello post-game. “We got off to a bad start, we couldn’t clear our area. There were too many moments when we gave them the ball and they were able to hurt us.”
“It was disappointing, the result for us. Credit to Japan, I think we played one of the hottest teams in the world right now.”
Arguably Canada’s best spell came after conceding that first goal, to their credit. Unsurprisingly, their most promising attacking outlet all game long was down the left flank through Alphonso Davies, and it was his link-up with Jonathan David that won the penalty from which Canada should have equalized after 20 minutes.
“I thought we grew into the game in the first half and for 20 minutes there we had some success which led to the penalty,’ added Biello. “We were strong on the left-hand side particularly with Alphonso and we were able to create the PK.
“Obviously, you have to score when you get those opportunities. But we weren’t shy in trying to play and build. Our goal was a really good sequence in the second half, so was the PK.”
David, so reliable from the spot with Lille, saw his spot kick saved, and so Canada’s best chance of restoring parity vanished into the Japanese air.
From then on, there was only one winner.
Canada shot themselves in the foot time and time again, and Japan could easily have scored more than their four.
“When you make mistakes vs. these types of players and teams, you get punished,” reflected Biello. “At the end of the day, we have to learn from this, learn from these situations and grow and get ready for November.”
And, for Biello, in this transitional post-John Herdman period, that’s the crux of it: Friday was a learning experience, albeit a humbling one.
“That was the goal, to learn from this game. We played a tough opponent today and I wanted to see how certain players could deal with this type of opponent. When I review the game, there will be things that I have to adjust to improve the team, but at the same time I wanted to have that continuity and cohesion because we haven’t played since June… I’ve got to see how we can improve this team, for sure.”
“For the players to feel that type of competition is important. We’ll learn from this and we’ll be a better team for it heading into the Nations League.”
Canadians will hope so. Up next for this team who hadn’t played together in four months is the crucial CONCACAF Nations League quarter-final which also serves as a 2024 Copa América qualifier, the second leg of which will be at Toronto’s BMO Field.