SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Canada is not just playing for a spot in the fourth and final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying Tuesday afternoon.
Veteran Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman told Sportsnet Monday evening that his younger brother, Swansea City midfielder Jonathan de Guzman, will play for his home country should Canada earn a positive result versus Honduras.
“He will be there. I can put my life on that, if we make it to the next round,” Julian de Guzman said. “He will be here. He says it. He knows it now.”
Jonathan, 25, was born in Canada (Scarborough, Ont.), but grew up a massive fan of Dutch soccer. The walls of his bedroom as a child were filled with posters of Dutch stars, and he’s longed to play for the Netherlands his entire life. When he was 12, he moved there and joined the Feyenoord youth academy. After receiving citizenship in 2008, Jonathan appeared four times with the country’s under-21 team and six times with the under-23 side, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But the Netherlands senior team has showed no indication of having Jonathan as part of its plans. With FIFA changing its regulations in 2009 to remove age restrictions on players changing their affiliations, it is still possible for him to represent Canada at senior level.
And his older brother is adamant that Jonathan will be in the mix, should Canada earn a victory or draw to advance to “the Hex,” the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Nothing is really happening for him in Holland,” Julian said. “He watches these (Canada) games, and he lets me know how he feels after every game. His heart is still there.”
Jonathan de Guzman is one of two marquee Canadian soccer players not with the national team. The other, of course, is David “Junior” Hoilett, the 22-year-old from Brampton, Ont., who signed a four-year deal with Queens Park Rangers in the English Premiership in July.
Hoilett told Sportsnet in June, coincidentally enough while watching Canada play Honduras in a World Cup qualifier in Toronto, that he was waiting for his professional club situation to get solved before making a decision on his international career. He is eligible to play for Canada, Jamaica, and has stated in the past of his interest in playing for England.
As recently as last month, one of Hoilett’s representatives said the winger has yet to make up his mind. But Julian de Guzman believes that by advancing, and his brother joining Canada, Hoilett will be part of a package deal.
“He brings Junior, he brings the next Owen Hargreaves-type player. He brings all the other guys who second-guessed Canada. I think it makes sense,” Julian said. “When there is success in the national team, it’s definitely going to attract a lot of people. Not just fans, and marketing, but the right players involved.”
De Guzman is one of seven current national team members who have lost in Honduras before. Who have never been to the final round of World Cup qualifying. Who have never come close to tasting the World Cup.
He knows the scene. It will be hot — about 37 degrees Celsius at game-time. It will be hostile — with more than 35,000 fans on what is being called an impromptu national holiday here. It will be the most significant game since Canada last reached “the Hex” in 1998.
“This is the key moment. This is what we want,” Julian stated. “This is what we want to be able to retire to: To watch great Canadians make it at the greatest level. Not just at the club level, but World Cups.
“Every Canadian wants that. This is what’s at stake. There’s so many things at stake. Whether it’s personal things, career things, for the country as well. For the future of the game. It’s a lot of things.
(In) 2014, I don’t think Canadians want to be bothered by other flags roaming around cities. They want to see the Maple Leaf. That would be the most precious thing for any follower of this game.”
Would you approve of Jonathan de Guzman joining the Canadian men’s national team if they advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying?