By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on December 15, 2023.
Canada midfielder Stephen Eustaquio says he did not see any of the selfishness in the national team that former coach John Herdman referenced in a podcast earlier in the week.
With the players boycotting a planned Vancouver friendly with Panama in June 2022 over the lack of movement in labour talks with Canada Soccer, Herdman said the team’s mentality changed ahead of the World Cup in Qatar last November.
“The ‘we’ had gone to ‘me.’ I should have left,” he told the CBC’s Player’s Own Voice podcast.
Eustaquio diplomatically disputed that, but hinted at some tension.
“There was no reason to be a ‘me’ before ‘we,'” he said. “But at the World Cup, obviously after the first (1-0) loss to Belgium, after we played a very solid and good game against them, we knew that we need a result against Croatia. And they’re one of the top nations in the world.”
The Canadians lost 4-1 to Croatia – with Alphonso Davies ending Canada’s scoring drought at the men’s showcase – and were eliminated from reaching the knockout rounds.
“It’s very hard to be at a tournament where you still have to play a game and you know that you’re not going to qualify (for the knockout round),” Eustaquio said. “I understand his (Herdman’s) words. I don’t want to comment about it.”
The FC Porto midfielder called it a “learning experience. We just move forward.”
The Canadian men, under Herdman, qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. They exited after the group stage in Qatar following a final 2-1 loss to Morocco.
Herdman, who announced in late August that he was leaving Canada to take over Toronto FC, says he should have left in the wake of his sister Nicola’s suicide in May 2022. Herdman said he was persuaded by others to continue with Canada.
Herdman said he felt his job was done getting the team to the men’s World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
“I did not need that World Cup. I don’t know if I wanted it either,” he told the podcast.
Eustaquio, named Canada Soccer’s Men’s Player of the year on Friday, said he considered Herdman the “top guy” to lead Canada to the World Cup.
“He deserved it as well because he worked for it,” he said. “At the time he didn’t share with a lot of people but we were there for him. I believe that it was a very tough moment for him but “¦ he was always connected with us. He did an amazing job.”
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2023