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St. John’s soccer fans ready to watch Canada shine on the World Cup stage

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Feildians soccer players in St. John’s are all smiles watching Canada play its first game at the World Cup since 1986. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The party is on as Canada’s men’s soccer team kicks off its first World Cup match in over three decades.

Canada’s World Cup campaign begins against Belgium — the No. 2-ranked men’s team in the world. It’s Canada’s first match at the tournament since 1986, when they lost all three of their matches without scoring a goal.

Canada clinched its last trip to the World Cup on Sept. 14, 1985, in St. John’s.

Watch parties across the province are full of screaming fans, waving flags and red and white jerseys, eager to support the Canadians after Alphonso Davies missed an opportunity to give Canada the lead.

“I think they should be really proud of themselves because they’ve come so far. They’re playing so well so far,” Anna Murphy, 11, a soccer player with the Feildians program in St. John’s, said at halftime.

Victoria English, 11, said getting the opportunity to experience the men’s World Cup with her teammates was exciting.

Feildians coach Nick Whalen says he was hoping the kids would feel that way.

Two girls wearing Canadian soccer jerseys smile for a photo.
Soccer players Victoria English, left, and Anna Murphy were impressed with Canada’s first half performance. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

“The kids are so excited to be together to watch Canada demonstrate its prowess on the world stage. And as you can hear from the kids in the back, they’re having a great time,” he said.

“I just remember my time as a kid watching football, watching Canada beat Honduras in their qualifier in ’85, and how that brought me and my teammates together. And I’m hoping tonight, today, will bring these kids and their teammates together .”

Newfoundlander in Qatar ready to roar

Meanwhile, a Newfoundlander in Qatar says she’s excited to see the red and white on the world’s biggest sporting stage.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous game, a tremendous game,” said Linda Goodyear, visiting Qatar from St. John’s, told CBC Radio Tuesday. “Hopefully they’ll rise to the occasion. We’ll be there supporting them, and giving it all we’ve got.”

Goodyear said she’s especially excited to watch players like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Canadians who have proven themselves in top leagues in Germany and France respectively.

Canada finished at the top of its qualifying round, above other North American World Cup qualifiers Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States.

“They want to prove that Canada is FIFA-worthy and want to be, you know, considered, you know, competitive,” Goodyear said.

Four people stand in a room holding Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada flags.  Mini flags from different countries represented in the 2022 World Cup are strung across the ceiling.
From left, Shane Dunphy, Linda Goodyear, Linda Budgell and Aaron Jones are four Newfoundlanders taking part in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. (Submitted by Linda Goodyear)

Being a part of the fan experience has been an amazing adventure, Goodyear said. She’s met fans from all over the world, including others from Newfoundland and Labrador working in the Qatari capital of Doha, and says it feels like the tournament unifies everyone she meets.

“We’re all on the same page. We all know the teams, we all know the rules, we all know the players, we all know the history. And so you can talk to almost anyone,” she said.

Canada will play a guaranteed three matches as part of the group stage at the World Cup. Matches against Croatia and Morocco are scheduled for Nov. 27 and Dec. 1, respectively.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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