Canada’s men soccer team will play Iceland on Jan. 15 in Irvine, Calif., in a Dec. 30, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian men to play Iceland in January international soccer friendly

TORONTO — Canada, bidding to add much-needed FIFA ranking points, will play Iceland in a men’s international soccer friendly on Jan. 15.

The game will take place in Irvine, Calif., at the Orange County Great Park with coach John Herdman summoning his players for a camp in advance.

Iceland is currently ranked 39th in the world, compared to No. 73 for Canada. The teams have met three times before with one win for Iceland and two ties.

With the January game not taking place within a FIFA window, neither team will be able to field its top lineup given most European leagues will be in play. The Canadian roster is expected to be released later this week.

Iceland’s top league will be on its winter break while MLS and CPL players will be preparing to get ready for pre-season. Canada, however, is no stranger to January camps or matches. The Canadian men met Iceland twice in January 2015 in Orlando, losing 2-1 and tying 1-1 with Dwayne De Rosario scoring both goals for Canada.

Canada stands seventh among CONCACAF countries and is looking to close the gap on No. 69 El Salvador, which currently stands sixth. The top six teams in CONCACAF come the June rankings will move directly to the Hex round of World Cup qualifying, the most direct route in the region to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

The top three teams in the Hex will book their ticket to Qatar.

Teams ranked seventh and below in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, will have to slog through a longer qualifying process. The last team standing will face the fourth-place Hex finisher to determine who advances to an intercontinental playoff with a World Cup berth on the line.

The Canadian men currently have 1,331 points, 15 behind El Salvador.

Both teams are likely to use FIFA international windows in March and June to boost their points total. Games played outside the windows are worth points, but not as many.

Iceland can help Canada’s cause. It plays El Salvador on Jan. 19 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

Iceland is preparing for a March Euro 2020 qualifier against Romania with the winner facing either Bulgaria or Hungary for a place in the tournament. The winner will land in a tough group alongside Germany, France and Portugal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2019.

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